JOHANNESBURG – Shock and dismay swept through South Africa after France was named as the host nation for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
South Africa had been announced as World Rugby’s preferred host nation two months ago, but they were pipped by France in the second round of voting in London on Wednesday.
Having submitted a strong bid that relied heavily on the infrastructure left behind from the 2010 Fifa World Cup, South Africa were confident of hosting their second Rugby World Cup after winning the tournament at home in 1995.
France hosted the tournament 10 years ago in 2007, which was ironically won by the Springboks, which was their second world crown.
Ireland fell off in the first round of voting, with France securing 24 votes and South Africa receiving 15.
SA Rugby said in a statement on Wednesday that they were “bitterly disappointed” by the outcome.
“We are bitterly disappointed at this decision and would like to apologise to the people and government of South Africa for raising their hopes,” said SA Rugby president Mark Alexander.
“We did everything in our power to bring the tournament to South Africa, and we expected to have that right confirmed today.
“We produced a compelling bid document that earned the unanimous recommendation of the Rugby World Cup Ltd board. That recommendation was questioned last week by rivals, but endorsed a second time by World Rugby last week.
“However, the view of the experts and World Rugby’s leadership was overturned by World Rugby Council members, who may have had other factors to take into account.
“We cannot hide our desolation, but for the sake of rugby, we wish the 2023 tournament hosts every success.”
SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said that the organisation won’t challenge the vote.
“We have said throughout that we would honour both the letter and the spirit of the process, and we now consider the 2023 bidding process closed,” he said.
“However, in the feedback sessions, I am sure we will be recommending to the World Rugby Council that the verdict of the evaluation committee become binding.
“World Rugby ran an exhaustive and transparent process for 15 months to identify the best host nation, only for the process to go entirely opaque for the past two weeks.”
Alexander added: “It will be for the next generation of SA Rugby leaders to decide whether to compete for the 2027 tournament or beyond.
“I am sure our country will fulfil the dream of hosting the tournament once again someday; our hearts bleed that it will not be in 2023.”