By:Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
So says SAU CEO Jurie Roux, speaking during a wide-ranging interview with Sport 24 this week.
“The official tender only opens in March 2016; currently at the IRB (International Rugby Board) it’s already the Irish and South Africa who have put their hands up and indicated they will be looking at tendering,” he said.
“We’ve got a bit of a way to go with our own government in terms of getting things into place, but the fact that we’ve decided we want to do it, gives us ample time to prepare for the 2016 part (of the process).”
As one of rugby union’s superpowers, and not having staged it since the much-lauded 1995 tournament, Roux admitted: “From a likelihood point of view, I would imagine we have a very strong case.
“I honestly believe we should have got 2019, and didn’t. In the end it’s worked out nicely for Japan because they have got the Rugby World Cup and then Olympics (Tokyo 2020) straight after that, an awesome scenario for them.
“But it’s in England next (2015), it’s just been in New Zealand in 2011 … so I can’t see many other possible places.
“Wales or Scotland probably couldn’t do it on their own — perhaps the Irish could, or could combine with the other (two). It will have been north, been east, so I think it is high time it comes south again.”
Roux’s views are certainly backed up – unless there has been some unexpected change of heart – by noises from the IRB corridors just ahead of the New Zealand-staged tournament in 2011.
When visiting South Africa earlier that year, IRB chairperson Bernard Lapasset told this writer: “South Africa has a real chance of staging (2023), and doing it successfully.
“You have one of the strongest rugby cultures, and now all these new stadiums built for the soccer World Cup (in 2010) … South Africa’s capacity to host very big, well-organised sports tournaments cannot be in any doubt.”
At the time, colleague and then-IRB chief executive Mike Miller (he has since stepped down) conceded that “a bit of a risk” was taken in awarding 2019 to Japan, so the IRB Council would probably wish to revert to a “traditional powerhouse” four years later.
He had also said it was possible the 2023 tournament host nation would be revealed 10 years ahead – meaning this year – as had been the case with Japan, greatly aiding their preparation for a maiden staging.
If the announcement does end up being held back to 2016, for the official tender, it may well be interpreted as a signal that South Africa, given its prior experience of World Cups in all of soccer, rugby and cricket, simply does not need as much time to get its ducks in a row for 2023 and is, by logical extension, the favourite.
Further down the line, there have been whispers that other virgin territories for the RWC jamboree, like the United States and Russia, will enter the radar for hosting, perhaps in 2027.
Ireland’s 2023 quest – it would involve both Northern Ireland and the Republic — is aided by the revelation in March that an all-clear has been given for some of the bigger Gaelic football grounds to be used.