SA Rugby president Mark Alexander. Photo: Aubrey Kgakatsi/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – South Africa’s international appeal as a sought-after tourist destination will prove as decisive as South Africa’s standing as a recognised rugby powerhouse in influencing the vote to determine the hosts of the 2023 World Cup.

The bidding process, for the first time in the tournament’s history, is underpinned by World Rugby’s “weighted criteria scorecard”.

Host cities, venues and tournament infrastructure make up 50 percent of this scorecard, and it’s a scorecard that speaks favourably to South Africa because of the stadia legacy of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, and the internationally acknowledged and celebrated reputation of South Africa’s premier cities.

South Africa’s Rugby World Cup bid platform is strengthened because of eight super stadia in seven cities.

And while the rugby leadership rightfully can boast about the quality of the already operational and functional stadia, it’s the attraction of the cities that are home to these stadia that could determine which way the council members vote.

The leadership of all three bidding teams (South Africa, France and Ireland) will get an opportunity to present to World Rugby’s council in London on September 25.

The council will then vote to determine the winning bid on November 15, but in the interim, in October, World Rugby’s executive will also receive the evaluation commissions report and independent service provider reports, as per the scorecard.

It would generally be accepted that the council vote would be consistent with the independent recommendation.

But it’s no guarantee that the council members share the view of those independents when it comes to who gets ranked one, two and three.

The independents, who are assessing each bid, may conclude that very little separates the three in an overall percentage, which then highlights the importance of how the selling job gets done (to the council members) by each country’s bidding teams.

What makes South Africa’s sell to the council that much easier, outside of an extremely compelling commercial and technical bid, is the city and provincial make-up of the country.

The Western Cape is renowned as one of the world’s top tourist destinations, while South Africa’s international appeal, includes wildlife and spectacular beaches and coastlines.

Ellis Park hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup final. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

There’s more to hosting a World Cup than the match-day occasion, and it’s here where South Africa has an advantage in the diversity of the offering, from Table Mountain to the Kruger National Park.

“We do believe we have answered all the rugby-related questions,” says SA Rugby Union (Saru) president Mark Alexander.

“Our bid is very strong, but so is the lure of visiting South Africa for the tourist experience. It’s very unique.”

South Africa’s host cities’ decision-makers, like the government (provincial and national) had to agree that there was value in hosting a Rugby World Cup.

There had to be benefit beyond rugby’s needs as a sport. It had to make economic sense, and it does.

Port Elizabeth, as just one example, detailed the financial gains of hosting a Springbok Test match.

Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber acting CEO Prince Matonsi estimated there would be in excess of R155 million contribution to the region’s GDP, based on having the Boks in Port Elizabeth for one week during this year’s Rugby Championship.

Imagine the commercial return when several international teams are based in the region for a month during a World Cup.

Matonsi is among the converted as to the benefits of international sporting events in his region.

“It benefits the different businesses that are involved, filters through the rest of the economy and also gives an injection into maintenance of the (Nelson Mandela Bay) stadium, which is crucial to Port Elizabeth being a world-class sporting destination.”

Saru commercial manager Tsholo Khubeka says the response from the proposed host cities' respective leaderships has made South Africa’s bid even more compelling.

“We’ve said from the outset that this is a bid about South Africa and South Africans, of which rugby is the vehicle.

“It has to have the support of government, and it has to have the buy-in from those host city representatives.

“We’re fortunate and blessed to be able to have the (city) locations we have in terms of our bid.

“Our stadia offering is without comparison, and so too is the tourist aspect of what you can do when visiting each of the host cities.”

South Africa’s bid also focuses on the World Bank’s Purchasing Price Parity data, which shows that visitors to the 2023 World Cup can experience three weeks in South Africa for what it would cost for one week in either France or Ireland.

South Africa is renowned for its rugby, but the success of hosting the Rugby World Cup, like the bid itself, is about what supports the rugby offering.

And when it comes to tourism in South Africa, it’s pretty much got everything and a low cost, with no compromise to quality.

 

Weekend Argus