South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s presence in London on Monday is confirmation of the intent in South Africa’s 2023 Rugby World Cup bid.
It could also be the moment that seals the deal for South Africa to win the confidence of World Rugby in relation to doubts over the political stability within South Africa.
South African Rugby Union’s (Saru) leadership duo of Mark Alexander and Jurie Roux will present on what makes South Africa’s bid technically and commercially compelling, but it’s the government presence in London that will significantly improve South Africa’s bid prospects.
World Rugby, in its bid stipulations, places a premium on government support and government financial guarantees, to ensure there is never a financial compromise to the sport’s global governing body.
The government, as the leader partner in the bid process, has signed off on all World Rugby’s requirements and even guaranteed £40 million more than the tournament guarantee of £120m.
The government stance has been influenced by the huge strides made in the past 18 months when it comes to transformation in South African rugby, and rugby bosses would also have had their case (within government) boosted by the Southern Palace Group’s historic sponsorship of the Springboks.
The Southern Palace Group of Companies is an independent all-South African, black owned-and-managed company, who a few months ago committed to a first-up and initial three- year investment as an associate sponsor of the Springboks.
They wouldn’t have aligned with a sport they did not believe spoke to the broader South Africa, to the transformation of South African sport or to their own value system.
The company’s motto is about driving tomorrow and of South Africa being a country, and Africa a continent, of possibilities. For them to associate with the Springboks, and by extension South African Rugby, makes it the biggest transformation victory since unification.
Transformation in rugby has always been a black player numbers game, especially in media storytelling.
But the bigger picture is in the commercial investment of rugby, and it can’t be overstated just what a boost it is to the future of South African rugby to finally have South African black corporate interest and investment in the Springboks.
It’s as significant to the game’s health as the government’s £160m guarantee is to the 2023 Rugby World Cup bid.
* Mark Keohane is an award-winning rugby writer and former Springbok communications manager.
Follow him on www.keo.co.za and www.twitter.com/mark_keohane