CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Former South Africa flyhalf Joel Stransky has labelled World Rugby an “old boys club” and questioned the process to select the 2023 World Cup hosts after France were surprisingly handed the staging rights in London on Wednesday.
South Africa had been unanimously recommended by the Rugby World Cup Board to host the tournament after an extensive evaluation of the three bidders, which also included Ireland, but lost a World Rugby Council vote 24-15 to France after the Irish dropped out in the first round.
France last staged the event in 2007, while South Africa has not hosted the World Cup since 1995 when Stransky landed a winning drop goal in extra-time of the final against New Zealand.
“We are all bitterly disappointed and quite shocked,” he told South African TV channel SuperSport.
“One has to ask the question, why has the vote gone against the recommendation when most of the unions said they would vote with the recommendation? It’s bitterly disappointing and quite surprising.
“You can only imagine the lobbying that has gone on behind the scenes and the one thing that it does fix in my mind is that it is an old boys club still making decisions at World Rugby.
“Ultimately, your bid can be as good as you like, but you have to lobby to get those blokes on your side. Which means nothing has really changed, so what is the point of having an independent auditor if you are not going to take the recommendation?”
World Rugby had included an independent evaluation for bids in order to make the process more transparent, but the ultimate decision was still made by secret ballot.
Former Springboks winger Ashwin Willemse, who was in the squad when South Africa last lifted the William Webb Ellis trophy in France in 2007, believes the recommendation of the Rugby World Cup Board should be binding, something SA Rugby will push for in the future.
“What made South Africa the preferred host was their bid, nothing more,” Willemse said. “Apples were (compared with) apples and we came out on top. So how do you win a bid, on the basis of what?”
John Smit, South Africa’s captain in 2007, said: “That is devastating news, the joys of a secret ballot.”
Reporting by Nick Said, editing by Ed Osmond