Springbok captain Warren Whiteley in action against France in June. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG - Springboks captain Warren Whiteley was left stunned after hearing France - and not South Africa - would host the Rugby World Cup in 2023.

Whiteley was not one of the millions watching events unfold in London on Wednesday afternoon, but he saw on social media when World Rugby boss Bill Beaumont unveiled France as the bid winner, ahead of South Africa and Ireland.

“I was shocked ... I don’t have words actually,” said a stunned Bok captain, who has missed the last few months of rugby because of a groin injury.

“It just doesn’t make sense. I followed all the talk in recent days and saw reports saying we’d get it, others said we wouldn’t ... but after being named the preferred candidate I really thought it would come our way.”

Whiteley, who just two weeks ago - when South Africa were named the preferred choice following an independent evaluation process - said he’d love to be involved in some capacity in 2023, added the “loss” was a big blow for the country.

“We need plenty good news and that would have helped. It would have been awesome, for everyone in this country. Some friends and I were together over the weekend and we were already planning certain things, like going to games and so on. We were all 90 percent sure we had it," he added.

“You’re left questioning the whole process, and the time spent putting a bid together. It’s crazy. It’s bitterly disappointing for the country and everyone who worked so hard to get it back in South Africa. But, what can you do?

“Maybe in future World Rugby will scrap the idea of having a preferred candidate, or not making it public ... to not get hopes up and to ensure there is no last minute negotiating, or looking for negativity in the other bids.

“I think if Ireland had won we would have understood it a little better ... mainly because France hosted this event only 10 years ago. We have to go back 22 years,” said Whiteley.

The injured Bok skipper though said the outcome would not dampen his spirits as he looks to fight back from the serious injury that has sidelined him this year. “I was first a rugby supporter before I became a player, and then a Springbok, and I’ll be a supporter again when I hang up my boots. My passion for rugby and the Boks will always be there.”

The Star

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