Headline background: Fans at a Sevens rugby match against New Zealand. Left: a young Bok fan waves a flag.
DURBAN - HOSTING the 2023 Rugby World Cup will give South Africa a R27billion injection, with Durban pocketing R4.5bn of that.

This is according to audit firm Grant Thornton, which released a feasibility report this week on the country winning the bid.

Another benefit would be the creation of 38000 temporary and permanent jobs, 3604 of them in Durban.

The SA Rugby Union (Saru) commissioned the viability exercise on hosting the International Rugby Board (IRB) showpiece event, which is staged every four years.

Saru is optimistic its 827-page bid document, delivered to the IRB’s headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, in October, was a “winning” one.

France and Ireland are among the countries favoured to host the tournament after Italy withdrew from the race last year.

On November 27, the IRB will announce who will host the prestigious event.

A successful bid will be well received, especially in Durban, after the city lost its chance to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games with the government saying it was “too costly”. The Treasury needed to put up R6.3bn in guarantees on behalf of Durban but that did not materialise.

Although Moses Mabhida Stadium has not hosted much rugby, bar the June match between South Africa’s A-side and the French Barbarians, it served as the venue for many of the 2010 Fifa World Cup soccer games.

The Moses Mabhida Stadium is Durban's choice venue for the 2023 World Cup. Picture: Reuters

The ailing Kings Park Stadium, the home of the Sharks, has traditionally been the preferred rugby venue in the province.

Soccer City, another 2010 World Cup venue, and not Ellis Park, where the Boks won the 1995 Rugby World Cup, would be the venue for rugby matches in Joburg for 2023, according to the audit report.

The last 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 at Ellis Park.

With South Africa’s democracy still in its infancy during the 1995 tournament, the hosting of the cup and “Madiba magic” did much for nation-building as the locals came out in full support of the Boks.

Mandela famously wore Springbok captain Francois Pienaar’s No6 jersey that day.

Apart from the monetary benefits of hosting the cup, the government believes the event will underpin social cohesion, which has been fragmented lately.

1995 Rugby winning captain Francois Pienaar with the late President Nelson Mandela. Photo: Reuters

So the cabinet approved the R2.7bn in guarantees, an IRB prerequisite for the host nation, last month.

The government is expected to recoup R1.4bn from taxes and the balance through a profit-share agreement with Saru.

News of the guarantees came after Minister of Sport and Recreation Thulas Nxesi gave Saru the green light to bid.

His predecessor, Fikile Mbalula, had not favoured the bid on the basis of an apparent lack of transformation in rugby.

But Nxesi believes the tournament will encourage a “winning nation” mentality.

He said hosting the event would also reaffirm the country’s ranking as a leading sports tourism destination, with tourism having been identified as a national economic priority for job creation and economic growth.

He said hosting the tournament would also help promote social cohesion and nation building.

Saru chief executive Jurie Roux said the country already had the infrastructure in place.

“We sincerely believe that, judged objectively, according to World Rugby’s original criteria, we have a strong bid.”

Of the other contenders, Roux said: “Unlike Ireland, we already have eight high-quality, match-ready venues capable of hosting 2.68million ticket holders. All have nearby training facilities.”

He said part of the profits that will come from hosting the world spectacle would be channelled to growing rugby in Africa.

“We will reach more than a million Get Into Rugby (development programme) participants. This, plus the expansion of Rugby Sevens to more African countries will strengthen World Rugby’s Olympic standing and grow our game,” he said.

Other host cities, apart from Durban, include Cape Town, Tshwane, Nelson Mandela Bay in PE, Bloemfontein and Mbombela.

Joburg, which was expected to host more games, including the showpiece final at Soccer City, was expected to rake in more than R10bn with 14102 jobs to be created for the country’s economic hub.

The contribution to Cape Town’s gross domestic product would be R5.2bn with 7304 jobs created.

eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede said she was not aware of the projected figures but the cash injection would be welcome.

DA caucus leader in eThekwini, Zwakele Mncwango, said: “The best thing about rugby is that it attracts private investment. It would be welcomed if it happened.”

Dumile Cele, chief executive of the Durban Chamber of Commerce, said a successful bid would be great for business.

“Winning the bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup will have phenomenal benefits for our businesses and the multiplier effect in society will be enormous.”

Economist Professor Bonke Dumisa said he was “generally sceptical” of South Africa hosting international sporting events. “But I do support holding the 2023 Rugby World Cup in South Africa because it will not necessarily have any negative implications for our fiscus.”

Dumisa said many 2010 stadiums, which cost a lot to build and were now rarely used.