The potency of South Africa’s Rugby World Cup 2023 bid is in the stadia legacy of having hosted Soccer’s Fifa 2010 World Cup.
SA Rugby’s Commercial General Manager Tsholo Kubheka insists rugby is a vehicle to bringing sport’s biggest global event of 2023 to South Africa and the benefits would extend the South African rugby landscape.
‘This is about country first and foremost,’ says Kubheka, ‘Having the World Cup in South Africa would be brilliant for the country and for the continent. Sport, in general, would profit because our commitment is that an event with the magnitude of a Rugby World Cup can’t be exclusive (in financial gain) to rugby in South Africa.
‘There will be reward for sport in this country and we believe that South Africans will embrace the event, just like they have every major sporting success story hosted in this country.
‘South Africans are incredible people and we’ve experienced first hand (1995 Rugby, 2003 Cricket and 2010 Soccer), the power and influence of South Africans when it comes to showcasing this country to the rest of the world.
‘England, in 2015, hosted the most successful and profitable RWC. The gains were there for sport and country, in terms of finance and growth. We believe we can deliver something even more special to what was a magnificent World Cup in England, with the legacy extended to the growth and influence of rugby on the African continent.’
South African Rugby’s bid could have focused exclusively on the emotion, the country’s positioning as a traditional powerhouse of rugby and a belief that South Africa is owed the right to host RWC 2023 because it would have been nearly 30 years since the country hosted the memorable 1995 Nelson Mandela-inspired World Cup.
‘There isn’t a more iconic Rugby World Cup image than the late President Mandela handing over the trophy to Springbok captain Francois Pienaar, but it’s not emotion or nostalgia that will win us the bid, says Kubheka. ‘We can pull all the right emotional strings but that’s not why we believe we should host 2023. Ours is commercially and technically a powerful and inspiring bid. The emotional aspects add to the storytelling of our bid but the strength of South Africa’s bid is in all the operational and economic benefits to World Rugby, South Africa, SA Rugby, South African sport and the advancement of rugby in Africa.
South Africa’s Minister of Sport and Recreation Thulas Nxesi insisted the legacy of the Rugby World Cup 2023 would be similar to the impact of South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
Nxesi, in several media briefings, highlighted the quality of South Africa’s 2010 tournament, the benefits to tourism, to the South African economy and also to South Africa’s standing as a global leader when it came to hosting the biggest sports events.
He also singled out the cost advantage of not having to build stadia.
Kubheka concurs with the Minister, highlighting the cost advantage of having hosted FIFA 2010.
‘One of our biggest operational advantages is that we have eight world-class stadia, four of which tick every World Rugby box required to host a World Cup final.’
SARU CEO Jurie Roux has also trumpeted South Africa’s infrastructure as being massive in being able to produce a bid to World Rugby that is so high on quality and low in cost.
‘Four of our stadiums were built for the FIFA World Cup in 2010 and the other four we would use were upgraded for use in 2010. These stadiums, effectively, will be 14 years old in 2023 and in stadium terms, that is absolutely nothing.
‘No infrastructure spend would be required and the economic impact study we have commissioned from Grant Thornton has a good news story to tell South Africa.’
Infrastructure, profit, South Africa’s track record in delivering major events, the country’s rugby and sporting culture and the uniquely African experience are the essence of South Africa’s bid.
And, as Roux told the media when officially delivering South Africa’s bid document to World Rugby in Dublin, South Africa (and Africa) is due another Rugby World Cup.
‘It’s been all over the world now. It’s only been in Africa once and by 2023 it will be nearly 30 years since it’s been in South Africa. It needs to come back to Africa.’