Then president Nelson Mandela presents the William Webb Ellis Cup to captain Francois Pienaar after the Springboks won the 1995 Rugby World Cup final at Ellis Park. Photo: Reuters
Cape Town - South African rugby bosses are putting the finishing touches to the presentation they hope will win over the hearts of the World Cup panel and land the country the 2023 showpiece.

A high-level delegation will leave for England in the coming weeks and make a final presentation to World Rugby in England on September 25. The delegation will include members of the bid committee and the government.

France and Ireland are the countries vying to host the tournament after Italy withdrew from the race last year. The IRB will announce the successful hosts of the prestigious event on November 27.

The last and only time South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup was in 1995, when the hosts scored an epic 15-12 extra-time win against New Zealand in the final played at the Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg. Early estimates put the likely income to be generated in six years’ time at R27 billion.

A recent Grant Thornton economic impact assessment report - commissioned by SA Rugby as part of the bid process and verified independently - has also boosted the confidence of the bid committee about the chance of hosting the event, regarded as one of the biggest in the sporting sector.

Chairperson of the committee Mark Alexander said should the country be awarded the opportunity to host the World Cup, it would create an enormous positive impact, not only for the economy but also for building cohesion and national pride.

“We have put a strong proposition together and we believe we meet the criteria that are set out”, he said.

South Africa already has world-class infrastructure in place and, as a great sports-loving nation, it had proposed to sell 2.9 million tickets, Alexander said.

SA Rugby Union chief executive Jurie Roux is also confident of South Africa’s chances. “We sincerely believe that, judged objectively according to World Rugby’s original criteria, we have a very strong bid.”

The economic impact assessment also highlighted that the World Cup would sustain 38 600 annual job equivalents - some temporary and some permanent.

At the government’s insistence, the report was independently verified before it provided the financial guarantees to underwrite the bid.

“There is a high level of support for rugby in the country; it receives large support whether it is played in Mbombela or Moses Mabhida,” Alexander said.

Other highlights showed that, based on the World Bank’s Purchasing Power Parity index, South Africa could deliver a high-quality event for half or less than half of what it would cost in Europe. It also said that among advantages that boosted the country’s chances were:

The currency exchange rate also means fans could spend two or three weeks following their teams from the pool to the knock-out stages for the same cost as just one week in Ireland or France.

World-class facilities and playing conditions during the early Southern Hemisphere summer are conducive to a showcase of fast, running rugby.

South Africa was one of only two countries to successfully host the rugby, football and cricket World Cups. It hosted the relocated 2009 Indian Premier League with fewer than 30 days’ notice. In the same period, it hosted the 2009 British & Irish Lions and the Fifa Confederations Cup.

A digital partnership with Dimension Data’s Sports Practice Business Unit would ensure a connected digital tournament.

When it came to the favourite drink associated with rugby fans, a beer in Paris costs the equivalent of $7 (R90.61), in Dublin it’s $6.5 and in Cape Town, in dollar terms, it’s $2.20 and Johannesburg, an average pint costs $1.70.

If the country wins the bid, a chief executive will be appointed to lead the delivery of the event.

“We are upbeat about the presentation we will make in England. There are positive spin-offs for other sporting codes and for the country as a whole. Hosting the event would galvanise us once again as a nation, and we need the unity.” Alexander said. 

* Additional reporting by Lungani Zungu

Weekend Argus