Stock image: South African fans during the Cape Town Sevens rugby match against New Zealand at Cape Town Stadium in December.Picture: BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG - This comes after after the government gave SA Rugby Union (Saru) the green light to proceed with bidding for the rights to host the month-long event.The country last hosted the showpiece in 1995.

The announcement by cabinet last week that it had approved the request for guarantees to the value of R2.7bn, which was required from World Rugby as a prerequisite in hosting the event, was welcomed by the sports and tourism fraternities.

Jurie Roux, the chief executive of Saru, said on Friday that it would be a marvellous, inspirational nation-building moment to recapture some of the excitement of 1995, but it would also have enormous practical benefits for our country.

“Hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2023 would have an R27bn direct, indirect and induced economic impact on South Africa; R5.7bn would flow to low-income households; 38600 temporary or permanent jobs would be sustained and there’d be an estimated R1.4bn tax benefit to the government,” Roux said.

File photo: SA Rugby Union CEO Jurie Roux. Picture: Masi Losi

Cabinet’s approvals brought certainly in the industry after the previous sports minister Fikile Mbalula had initially revoked rugby’s privilege of “hosting and bidding for major and mega international tournaments in South Africa” as a “consequence of not meeting their own set transformation targets”.

He had based the original decision to sanction rugby on a report from the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on sports transformation.

Despite Mbalula’s then lack of support, Saru went ahead and submitted its bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup anyway.

Mbalula later changed his mind and gave his support to the bid, a support which was rubber-stamped by his successor Thulas Nxesi. Nxesi said hosting the tournament would have major spin-offs for the ailing South African economy.

“Cabinet has approved the overall proposed package for this tournament, which is an economic bid, which would minimise the demands on the fiscus as well as stimulate economic activity, employment and empowerment.

Also read: Cabinet approves R2.7 billion guarantees for SA #RWC2023 bid

“The tournament will contribute to stimulating our economy by supporting government priorities, especially as it relates to preferential procurement and adherence to the Sports Transformation Charter and the sharing of the profits derived. The event will further boost our tourism and hospitality sector,” Nxesi said.

If the country gets the nod, ahead of France and Ireland, to rugby’s culminate showpiece, it would mark a second major sporting event the country hosts in seven years after the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

A KPMG analysis in the wake of the 2010 Fifa World Cup showed the event had pumped an estimated R93bn into the local economy, re-branded South Africa and created a favourable climate for direct foreign investment and tourism growth.

Technically strong

The African Response research showed that 96 percent of the 2010 Soccer World Cup visitors to South Africa said that they would possibly return to the country, while 92 percent said they would recommend the country to friends and family as a holiday destination.

However, on Friday trade union federation Cosatu said hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup was not profitable for the country and believed the same would hold true for the Rugby World Cup.

“The country is yet to honestly quantify the benefits of hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup that turned out to be nothing, but a festival of looting and cheating. That tournament was followed by the longest public service strike when workers were told that there was no money to pay for their salary adjustments,” Cosatu said.

Saru has previously bid unsuccessfully for 2011, 2015 and 2019 cups.

Mark Alexander, the president of Saru, said he was convinced at the fourth time of asking South Africa had produced on an unarguable case: “We believe our bid is technically the strongest of the three, with our world-class venues and training facilities, tourism infrastructure and wonderful climate.

“We will maximise the commercial benefit for World Rugby with a low-cost, high-return event in a country that has the infrastructure and major event experience to turn on a colossal event with 2.9 million match tickets available for the showpiece,” Alexander said.

The successful country would have to pay World Rugby a tournament hosting fee of $150m (R2bn). World Rugby will announce the host nation for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in November.