RWC 2023: SA Rugby's race for government backing

2017-03-16 12:58
Fikile Mbalula (Gallo)

Cape Town - SA Rugby needs government to officially back its bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup in South Africa by June 1. 

That is the final date of submissions for potential host nations, and if SA Rugby does not receive that backing in writing by that date, it will not be able to bid. 

At this stage, South Africa is up against France and Ireland as the country looks to host its second Rugby World Cup and first since 1995. 

There has been concern over government's support of the bid for a couple of reasons. 

The first of those came when Fikile Mbalula and the Department of Sport and Recreation banned the organisations in charge of rugby, cricket, netball and athletics in South Africa from bidding for or hosting major international sporting events based on the findings released in last year's Eminent Person's Group (EPG) report. 

The report suggested that rugby, and the other sports affected by the ban, had not done enough to facilitate transformation. 

There had reportedly been some confusion over what SA Rugby's targets were and the criteria used for measurements in the EPG report, but that has all been resolved now and SA Rugby and government are supposedly on the same page. 

Long story short, if SA Rugby meets its targets when the next EPG report is released, then the ban will be lifted and government will presumably get behind the 2023 bid. 

But, when contacted by Sport24 on Thursday, a spokesperson for the department of Sport and Recreation could not confirm when exactly the findings of the next EPG report would be released. 

Dr. Willie Basson, who heads up the EPG research team, is understood to have already handed over the 2016/17 findings to government (Herald LIVE) but the results are only expected to be announced in the next "month or two", according to the spokesperson. 

Mbalula was vocal on his desire to see the 2023 bid made a success when he addressed media in Durban on Tuesday following that city being stripped of its rights to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games - the second reason for concern - due to financial restraints.  

But while Mbalula is clearly keen on securing the World Cup in 2023, SA Rugby has still not received formal backing from government and won't until the EPG report findings are made public. 

That backing would see government provide a financial injection so that South Africa can pay World Rugby its bidding fees and provide certain financial guarantees.  

World Rugby delegates were in South Africa from Monday to Wednesday this week, ensuring that South Africa's bidding documentation was all in order. 

The feedback from that trip was positive, while World Rugby will now be moving onto Ireland and France to conduct the same inspections.  

The World Rugby party was expected to meet with government on Wednesday, but the department spokesperson confirmed that Mbalula was not part of any such meeting. 


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