Durban - Magical. In a word, that is the memory of former Springbok wing Chester Williams of the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
And he and the nation’s rugby fans would give anything for South Africa to be awarded the hosting rights for the 2023 tournament. The announcement of the host nation is due at 3pm on Wednesday, and South Africa has the inside track.
In September the Rugby World Cup committee announced that the South African bid was commercially and technically superior to that of competitors Ireland and France. It is possible when voting by World Rugby takes place in London today that one of the other two bidding nations will get the nod, but it would be unprecedented for the recommendation made in September to be overturned.
Williams believes the Rugby World Cup should return to our shores 28 years after it was held here in 1995.
“We did it in 1995 and again in 2010 (with the soccer World Cup). We have the stadiums and, importantly, we have a sports-mad culture that will get behind the World Cup,” Williams said.
“My abiding memory of the ’95 final (which South Africa won in extra-time against New Zealand) was pausing at the final whistle and looking around me (at Ellis Park), and taking in the multicultural celebrations. It was magical.
Everywhere there were South Africans hugging and shouting in the stands.”
In Wednesday’s secret ballot, 26 World Rugby members vote.
Top-tier nations Australia, England, New Zealand, Scotland, Wales, Italy and Argentina hold three votes each, while there are also votes for Canada (1), Japan (2), Georgia (1), Romania (1), USA (1), Asia Rugby (2), Oceania Rugby (2), Rugby Africa (2), Rugby Americas North (2), Rugby Europe (2) and Sudamerica Rugby (2).
South Africa, France and Ireland, as bidding countries, cannot vote.
South Africa’s Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, will head a high-powered delegation to London for the event, including Sport and Recreation Minister Thulas Nxesi, SA Rugby President Mark Alexander and Chief Executive Officer Jurie Roux.