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Rugby | SA Rugby

Financial boost for SA World Cup bid

South African Rugby received a R2.7 billion government guarantee on Thursday as a bid to host the 2023 World Cup intensified.

The sum was required by organisers World Rugby as part of the build-up to a November 15 vote in Dublin to choose the 2023 hosts with France and Ireland the other candidates.

"We believe our bid is technically the strongest of the three," said SA Rugby president Mark Alexander after the Cabinet approved the guarantee.

"South Africa has world-class match venues and training facilities, a great tourism infrastructure and a wonderful climate."

SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said: "We could not take this journey alone and are delighted to join hands with government in a shared vision of hosting the 2023 World Cup.

"A successful bid will be a win-win for sport development, for the economy and for the nation as a whole."

Cabinet approval of the guarantee marked a further warming of relations with SA Rugby after a "cold war" over racial transformation in the sport.

Failure to meet 2016 racial diversity targets led the government to ban SA Rugby from bidding to host international events.

The ban was lifted this year as black players took an increasingly prominent role in a sport once dominated by whites, who comprise only 10 percent of the population.

An agreement between the government and SA Rugby says half the 2019 South Africa World Cup team in Japan must be black.

South Africa hosted the 1995 World Cup, and won a final against arch foes New Zealand made famous by the presence of then President Nelson Mandela in a replica Springbok shirt.

Prior to the collapse of apartheid in the 1990s, the virtually white-only national rugby team was despised by blacks, who saw it as a symbol of racial segregation.

Soon after taking power in 1994, some ANC supporters wanted the Springbok emblem removed from the national team shirt, but Mandela insisted it remain.

Mandela donning a replica of the shirt worn by 1995 World Cup final skipper Francois Pienaar remains the most iconic moment of post-apartheid South African sport.

"Nelson, Nelson, Nelson," chanted the capacity 62 000 Ellis Park stadium crowd in Johannesburg, some of whom had labelled Mandela a "terrorist" just a few years earlier.

A dramatic final was won by an extra-time drop goal from fly-half Joel Stransky, now a rugby analyst for the Johannesburg-based SuperSport TV channel.

France staged the tournament in 2007 while Ireland are seeking a first chance to play hosts.


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