Rugby World Cup 2023: A continent awaits
By Andrew Bonani Kamanga
IT is official! The South African Rugby Union (SARU) has submitted a bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
They are not alone in this quest to host rugby’s most prestigious event. France and Ireland have also thrown their hat into the fray.
All of them are powerhouses in world rugby, with very strong rugby traditions. However, The Southern Times Sports Forum’s allegiance to the region cannot be questioned.
It is not a matter for discussion! We support the South African bid. The South African bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup is indeed a cause worth supporting.
It is good for rugby in South Africa and on the continent as a whole. Of course, it is costly to host such events but there is no doubt about the benefits of hosting and the long term legacy of mega events.
The way Africa is portrayed in the international media is that of a hopeless and suffering continent afflicted by kleptocratic dictatorships, hunger, HIV/AIDS, war, civil strife and diseases.
To shake off this negative image is a tough challenge. Furthermore, it is not helped by images of African migrants being rescued off the coast of Italy in rickety boats and rafts, trying by all means necessary, to gain entry into Europe.
Even the African Union (AU) seems to be clueless in terms of stemming the tide of thousands of African migrants trying and some of them dying in the process of gaining access into Europe through Italy or Spain.
Yes, this is a digression worth making just to illustrate the underdevelopment and poverty which is there in some parts of the continent.
The African leaders have been very slow and in some cases, unwilling, to create an environment which provides key incentives and is also conducive to the retention of people on the continent, especially the young, energetic and educated ones.
This has and continues to create a very negative image of Africa.
Sport can be and should be utilized as a catalyst for economic development and transformation and changing the way Africa is perceived in the international media. Without investment in world class facilities, this potential can never be realized.
Without facilities South Africa would not have been able to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup or even the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Other African countries, especially those in Southern Africa, should draw useful lessons from the South African situation and embark on long term plans and strategies to increase the number of world class facilities for various sport codes.
These could also be in the form of multi-purpose indoor sports halls for hosting events such as badminton, basketball, netball, volleyball, handball, squash, table tennis, judo, wrestling and weightlifting.
Africa and obviously, the Southern African region needs to bid and host for major continental and world events. Hosting events is not just about having lots of money but is also about meticulous planning and strategy.
Of course, critics and cynics will point to out to the 2022 Commonwealth Games from which Durban had to withdraw as designated hosts.
This unfortunate development was also not well handled by the South African sport authorities and it is hoped that it will not come to haunt future efforts to host mega events.
Rugby in South Africa is almost a religion, with the national team, the Springboks, having won the Rugby World Cup twice in 1995 and 2007.
The 2023 Rugby World Cup therefore offers a tremendous opportunity to develop the game in Southern Africa and throughout the continent.
The hosting of the 2023 Rugby World Cup will also provide an opportunity for the international media to focus on something else instead of the negative aspects of Africa.
Other African rugby authorities especially those in Southern Africa can and should derive great inspiration from South Africa in order to develop teams that can also beat the Springboks.
This will also strengthen South Africa as they will have to seriously compete in the region in order to qualify for the World Cup.
The Springboks should not have a guaranteed slot for the various editions of the Rugby World Cup. They should be made to fight for it.
In that way when they get to the World Cup, they will have passed a rigorous test on the continent.
The development of the rugby is showing great promise on the African continent, especially with the Rugby Sevens version of the game which has taken East Africa by storm with Kenya and Uganda excelling tremendously.
However, the jewel in the rugby crown continues to be the 15s version of the game.
Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe have got good rugby traditions and heritage. Most probably what is lacking is the developmental aspect in these three countries which have got great potential to challenge the Springboks for honours in the game of rugby in the future.
There is therefore need for development of all aspects of the game in these countries ranging from coaches, referees and players to ensure that the game is available as a sport of choice at all levels, particularly in schools and colleges.
Without the full development of the game in schools, it will be very difficult for these countries to position themselves to challenge the historical and hegemonic dominance of South Africa in the game. As Kobe Bryant aptly put it, “If somebody is not obsessed about they do, we do not speak the same language.”