Monday, April 8, 2013

South Africa to host Rugby World Cup 2023? Think again

Fight at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium during Kings v Sharks match
Despite having hosted the Rugby World Cup in 1995 South Africa was trying to host the tournament for the second time only one decade later. The bids for Rugby World Cup 2011 came from three continents with Japan, New Zealand and South Africa all trying to secure the hosting rights to the event. To determine the host nation there was a two stage voting process in which South Africa was eliminated in the first round after having recieved the lowest number of votes. Japan was then eliminated in the second with New Zealand thus being confirmed as the host nation for Rugby World Cup 2011. This occured back in 2005, six years before the World Cup. Four years later, in 2009, both Japan and South Africa were trying again and faced England and Italy. This time around, however, England won the 2015 hosting rights and Japan the rights to 2019 after they had been chosen by the IRB and then ratified in an altered process. 

Neither Italy nor South Africa were happy with the decision process. In not having been amongst the two nations shortlisted they were both effectively ensured of not securing hosts before the final decision was made. The decision to go for England was based on trying to obtain the maximum profit possible after 2011 was expected to bring in a shortfall. For 2019 Japan was selected to give the rest of the World a tournament after all previous ones had gone exclusively to the old Tri Nations´ and Five Nations´ unions. Whether or not South Africa will try again remains unknown but early indications are that it is a strong possibility. 

South Africa is, in theory, a good choice. The country has a good domestic rugby set up and has one of the leading test teams in the world. The country also has a large population, is a two time World Champion and has recently hosted the FIFA World Cup. 2023 will also mark twenty-eight years since the famous moment between François Pienaar and President Mandela. But to suggest the country merits hosting the World Cup for these reasons is not enough to have it host ahead of Argentina and Italy - the worlds greatest rugby nations to never have hosted a Rugby World Cup tournament. Both unions have indicated likely bids for Rugby World Cup 2023 and with the Americas having never hosted and Argentina, being a better team with a stronger history than Italy and having a strong record in hosting rugby, 2023 would be ideal for Argentina. As such Italy´s time would be in 2027 which would see Europe hosting its fifth Rugby World Cup. 

A South African bid will, like in 2011-2019 be one to be seriously considered but changes in the global game now mean that returning a World Cup to a previous host nation is no longer easy to justify. Previously the sport was very restricted and it was hard for many nations to draw crowds outside of the traditional hot spots within their own borders. Today the scenario is greatly different as rugby is now truely global.  The UAR will again provide a showcase for this in 2013 with Los Pumas to play against England in Salta and Buenos Aires, Georgia in Resistencia, South Africa in Mendoza, New Zealand in La Plata and Australia in Rosario. The matches will, like in previous years, be well attended with all expected to close in on sell-out crowds. 

Woman punched by man at
Super Rugby match in Cape Town
South Africa will host some exciting matches including a new tournament that will feature Italy, Samoa and Scotland. The success or failure of South Africa to attract people to these matches will play its part in the image of South Africa in hosting the World Cup in a decade from now. But, regardless of how many people attend the matches, the real focus of the international rugby public may well be the supporters. South Africans have been behaving poorly at Super Rugby matches this season with two different matches having fans fighting each other in the stands. Caught on camera, the attrocious actions of the supporters have done the image of South Africa severe damage as, quite simply, the safety of the supporters cannot be guaranteed.  A female attending the Stormers v Crusaders was viciously assaulted recently and it occured just weeks after a fight at a match in Port Elizabeth. It brings into question the concept of South Africa hosting the World Cup again. The country is already  notorious for being a dangerous country. The crime rate is very high and the unemployment rate is over 24%.  Argentina, on the other hand, has a lower crime rate, a lower unemployment rate and supporters from the world over rave about how much they enjoyed their experience watching test matches in Argentina.

Southern Kings v Sharks

Stormers v Crusaders


  1. Again I raise the issue of balance with your articles. Again I will say that I fully support a RWC in 2023 in Argentina BUT...

    If you are going to talk about off-field incidents for one potential host then you need to talk about them in Argentina's case as well.

    It was disturbing to see lasers aimed at Aaron Crudens eyes during the game at La Plata last year. They could've permamnently damaged his eyesight. Then it happened in the game against Australia in Rosario the next week as well. You would've thought after the first week, the ground authorities would've instituted thorough searches of bags and pockets. If this behaviour continues this year it will have an adverse effect on Argentinian rugby and a possible bid for the hosting of RWC2023.

    It was also highlighted in the NZ media about the team manager being the victim of robbery on the street as the team was leaving its hotel in BA.

    I may be wrong, but but I don't think either of these incidents have you brought attention on your blog.

    BTW, the nation which has actually been making the biggest noises about hosting RWC2023 in the last couple of weeks is Ireland who has gained the consent from the GAA to use all of their bigger capacity grounds including Croke Park. It looks increasingly likely they will tender for 2023.

  2. The incident in regards to Mike Harris in Rosario was outrageous. It was very disturbing and was criticized here on this site. The UAR admitted to being sad about the incident and promised to SANZAR that it would clean it up to avoid it repeating in future. Should it happen again then Argentina´s case for hosting a World Cup would be damaged.

    In the case of the fighting at Super Rugby games in South Africa. Little has been done to stop it from repeating. The two cases are alarming.

    Ireland is a good option but not for 2023. Having a World Cup there eight years after one being played in England would be very, very hard to justify.

  3. Yes Paul, it is very, very important for Argentina's chances of hosting the RWC in 2023 that there be no further incidents. Good that you criticized on this site. Sorry I couldn't remember if you had or hadn't.

    The South African cases are bad obviously because of the violence but also the poor security. In the first video even at the end security still hadn't arrived!

    Hard to justify in your eyes but not necessarily the IRB's which is made up of many European members. I'm sure Argentina would get the SANZAR vote as long as RSA didn't also tender and I'd be surprised if it didn't get the NACRA (USA) and Canadian vote and possibly the FORU and ARFU and Japan votes depending what the 6N unions might have offered them as I'm sure there'll be a lot of wheeling and dealing done. I think if there was a nearby European bid on the table, Argentina would be hard pressed to get any European votes, even that of the French with which Argentina has a close relationship.

    The other thing against Argentina for 2023 is that traditionally the RWC has been in Europe every second RWC. Now since 2019 will be hosted by Japan, the IRB members, particularly the European ones may think 2023 goes back to Europe as well.

    Whatever the case, there could be several tenders for 2023 and since it's likely the IRB will again do two RWC hosting choices at the same time, 2027. I hope Argentina will bid for both as it may well be that 2027 is the more likely to suceed.