Cape Town – World Rugby “assumes” that South Africa, despite
the controversial bidding ban order on major international tournaments by
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula earlier this year, is still interested in
staging the World Cup in 2023.
Although SARU, one of the domestic sports federations
affected by the ministry’s decision – citing an unacceptably slow pace of
transformation – had not replied to a request for comment at the time of
writing, it seems clear that they have not formally pulled the plug on the
quest for a second staging of RWC by the country since the acclaimed, memorable
1995 tournament on these shores when the Springboks won it.
That much was apparent from World Rugby’s media manager
James Fitzgerald, who told Sport24 on Friday: “South Africa’s RWC 2023 hosting
application is really a matter for SARU at this stage.
“The host selection process is entering its applicant
information sharing and gathering phase and unless we officially hear
otherwise, we are assuming that SARU remains a part of this process.”
The matter is delicate because Mbalula has said he will
review progress on transformation among various domestic sports bodies, and
also be prepared to be engaged by them on the ban; the 2023 event is also still
seven years up the road.
But the clock is nevertheless ticking down fast on the next
steps in the bidding process for RWC 2023 - formal “applicant submissions”
have to be presented to World Rugby by September 1 which is only a few weeks
In May last year, as required at the time, South Africa
–then considered fairly strong favourite by many, given that successive World
Cups in 2015 (UK) and the upcoming 2019 event (Japan) would have been held in
the northern hemisphere – as well as France, Ireland and Italy formally
expressed interest to bid for 2023 to World Rugby.
But South Africa’s prospects would hardly be helped if there
is lingering political uncertainty domestically over the bid.
For the moment, it appears SARU are gingerly pressing ahead
with meeting requirements in the process.
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