On the 31st of October, South Africa joyfully announced that the country was officially recommended to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. After two rounds of voting though, SA is dealing with the sore disappointment of losing out to France. What's even worse is that Rugby Africa allocated their votes to... France. Ouch!
12 countries were allocated either 1, 2 or 3 votes depending on their world ranking, and the 6 confederations in the voting process were allocated 2 votes each. In total, there were 39 votes, with 20 votes needed to be elected as the country to host the World Cup. The three candidates in the running, France, South Africa and Ireland were not allocated a vote. Ireland was voted out in the first round although a majority vote was not reached between the remaining two, leading to the second round of voting in which France received 24 votes to South Africa's 15.
The president of SA Rugby, Mark Alexander, released a statement to the press saying that: “We produced a compelling bid document that earned the unanimous recommendation of the Rugby World Cup Ltd board. That recommendation was questioned last week by rivals, but endorsed a second time by World Rugby last week. However, the view of the experts and World Rugby’s leadership was overturned by World Rugby Council members, who may have had other factors to take into account. We cannot hide our desolation but, for the sake of rugby we wish the 2023 tournament hosts every success.”
The CEO of SA Rugby has confirmed that the organization won't be questioning the outcomes of the voting process and have been assured that the 15 month voting process has been transparent, although it did not seem to remain so in the last two weeks. While South Africa remains skeptical and disappointed, Steve Tew from New Zealand rugby defended the process, claiming that it all boiled down to a democratic vote even though it produced an unexpected result.
Many South Africans, including ex–rugby star Joel Stransky, hold the opinion that "the old boys club" still holds the power in terms of decision making within World Rugby. This opinion is based on the recommendation that was made for South Africa to host the World Cup but the votes went against the recommendation process. This appears suspicious as South Africans speculate many behind–the–scenes tactics that went on despite an independent auditing process that was conducted. Aside from the suspicion among South Africans, another ex-Sprinkbok, Kobus Wiese, did admit that another factor could have been the political instability and crime levels that pose a safety risk for players and visitors.
The hopes of South Africans that rested on hosting their first Rugby World Cup since 1995 have been deflated. As the wound–licking process begins, South Africans are gearing up to back their rugby players.