CAPE TOWN, Oct 31 (Reuters) - The recommendation of the Rugby World Cup Board that South Africa hosts the tournament again in 2023 is a victory for “nation-building and social cohesion,” the country’s sports minister Thulas Nxesi said on Tuesday.
The government gave its financial and moral support to the bid having witnessed the role the 1995 tournament played in uniting a fractured society at the end of Apartheid, Nxesi added.
The image of South Africa President Nelson Mandela handing the trophy to Springbok captain Francois Pienaar is one of the most iconic and enduring in rugby.
The World Rugby Council is expected to rubber-stamp the Board’s recommendation on Nov. 15, though it could still opt for the bids of France and Ireland when the decision goes to a vote among member nations.
“This is a great and historic day,” Nxesi told reporters. “We know this is just the first step, but the reason we backed this bid is because we believe it is an important part of nation-building and social cohesion. We are almost there, it is just one final push.”
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said the country will continue to take the “moral high ground” ahead of the final vote, urging their rivals to refrain from “anything untoward” in terms of trying to win favour.
“We will accept whatever decision is made on Nov. 15, but we also believe that everybody (within the World Rugby Council) understands their responsibility,” Roux said.
“We as SA Rugby will run with the moral high ground. We have not visited one union, only seen them in groups along with the other bidders.
“Nobody can now add any additional information or present to anybody, all you can do is ask for the process to take it’s normal course and not be a part of anything untoward. We will just keep giving out information on our bid for the next few weeks.”
Roux is expecting to get support in the World Rugby Council vote from Southern Hemisphere rivals Australia and New Zealand.
“Our SANZAAR partners have publicly stated that they will support the process and support the recommendation that has been made,” he said.
Roux believes that what won them the most favour with the independent assessors was the country’s record of hosting major international events. Along with England, South Africa is the only country to host a rugby, soccer and cricket World Cup.
“On financial resources and tournament structure, we (the 2023 bidders) were all about equal, we would all make money and deliver the host fee. In the end, what pulled it through for us is our stadia and cities, and our proven track record in hosting international tournaments.”
Stadiums either newly-built or refurbished for the 2010 Soccer World Cup will be used for the 2023 tournament. (Reporting by Nick Said, editing by Ed Osmond)