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If the South African Rugby Union (SARU) is serious about hosting the 2023 World Cup, a meeting to discuss transformation goals with Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula is needed urgently. Last year rugby’s world governing body, World Rugby, announced that South Africa, Ireland, France and Italy had officially expressed an interest in hosting the tournament. But Mbalula’s latest ban on rugby, cricket, netball and athletics hosting international events unless transformation targets are met has derailed SARU’s plans. If SARU is to persist with the bid process, the union has to confirm its intention to tender a bid to World Rugby by next month. So time is of the essence. Strict deadlines have to be met. More than two weeks ago, SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said he was actively seeking clarification because, as far as he’s concerned, SA Rugby has achieved most of its transformation targets. Last week Mbalula told reporters after his budget vote in Parliament that SA Rugby’s chances of hosting the 2023 tournament depended on how they work to transform rugby “following the memorandum of understanding”. Is there a dispute over what’s in that memorandum which resulted in Mbalula running out of patience and issuing the ban, and SARU complaining it had been blindsided? Both sides need to sort this out, but it’s not clear why a meeting hasn’t been scheduled. Meanwhile World Rugby’s clock is ticking. – David O’Sullivan
By Nick Said
CAPE TOWN, May 12 (Reuters) – South African Rugby remains hopeful of bidding for the 2023 World Cup but the government says it will not relent from a ban that prohibits the union from launching bids in the next 12 months for major international events.
General Manager for Corporate Affairs Andy Colquhoun has said SA Rugby would engage with Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula on whether it will be allowed to push ahead with its bid plans.
But with the application process for prospective bidders starting next month, Mbalula’s spokesman Esethu Hasane told Reuters no meeting had been set up and that the government would not change its stance.
“There has been no request for a meeting by SA Rugby and the situation remains the same as when the minister announced that privileges enjoyed by these particular federations, which included SA Rugby, to bid for major international events had been revoked,” Hasane said.
“Nothing has changed and our view that there will be no special treatment for anyone remains the same.”
South Africa banned its national cricket and rugby federations in April from hosting or bidding for international tournaments for at least a year due to their failure to increase their representation of black players.
The government says they must wait until their performance is reviewed in April 2017 to have the sanction lifted. The announcement of the host for 2023 is due to be made by World Rugby in November next year, which could leave open the possibility of late bid by South Africa after the ban ends.
Sports minister Fikile Mbalula says the worst is yet to come if sporting codes fail to meet transformation targets.
— SAfm news (@SAfmnews) May 6, 2016
“As far as we are concerned, the only time the minister may decide to lift the ban is with the release of the next Eminent Persons Group report [on sports transformation],” Hasane said.
The government has been pushing for more black players to be included in the nation’s most popular sports but more than two decades after the end of apartheid, whites still make up the bulk of players in cricket, netball and rugby.
South Africa staged and won the World Cup in 1995, but had failed bids for the 2011, 2015 and 2019 competitions.
Hosting rights since the first tournament in 1987 have alternated between Europe and the rest of the world, meaning that any decision to hold the World Cup in South Africa in 2023 would be a break with tradition. The 2019 World Cup is due to be held in Japan.
Ireland, France and Italy have also publicly expressed their interest in hosting the tournament in 2023.
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