By Robson Sharuko
Harare – A multi-million-dollar project to try and recreate the magic of 1995, when the arrival of the Rugby World Cup helped shape their nation, crumbled in stunning fashion when favourites South Africa surprisingly lost their bid to host the global showcase in 2023.
It was a replica of the controversy which saw the Rainbow Nation being denied the right to stage the 2006 FIFA World Cup when the late New Zealand delegate Charles Dempsey chose to somehow not cast his vote in mysterious circumstances, giving Germany the rights by a single vote.
Some South Africans, who had been preparing to party with everything pointing to their country hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup, could be seen shedding tears just after World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont announced in London on Wednesday that France had won the rights to stage the showcase.
The French won the first round of voting from the council of the sport governing body after winning 18 votes in the secret ballot with the South Africans coming second with 13 votes and Ireland being knocked out after getting just eight votes.
That set the stage for a final round showdown between South Africa and France and six of those who had cast their votes for Ireland switched them to the French with only two voting in favour it the South Africans.
It was a shock turn of events after the evaluation committee gave the South African bid the best marks among the three leaving many to suggest that the London adventure was only meant to confirm the Rainbow Nation as the hosts for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
France had come second in that evaluation report but with the Europeans having hosted the 2007 Rugby World Cup, the good money was on South Africa getting another chance to try and create the sights and sounds of 1995 which many analysts say helped shape their nation.
It was at that tournament when iconic former South African President, Nelson Mandela, rallied his black counterparts to support the Springboks who used to be despised as the sporting arm of the apartheid regime.
Mandela’s decision to wear the replica jersey of Springboks skipper, Francois Pienaar, at Ellis Park during the final of that World Cup showdown between South Africa and the All Blacks at Ellis Park was hailed by many as a masterstroke which helped unite the fractured nation.
Those events also inspired a Hollywood blockbuster movie, lnvictus, featuring Morgan Freeman as Mandela, which was a huge hit around the world.
But a 16-month multi-million dollar project to recreate those sights and sounds of 1995 by bringing the 2023 Rugby World Cup back to South Africa crumbled in London on Wednesday when France were handed the rights to host the showcase.
Had South Africa won the rights to host the rights to host that tournament, organisers revealed that they would have created 38,000 permanent and temporary jobs around the tournament.
South Africa had been hoping to stage the tournament at such world-class venues like Soccer City, Ellis Park, Moses Mabida, Loftus Versveld, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and the Mbombela Stadium.
“All three candidates demonstrated their capacity to deliver an exceptional tournament,” said Beamount.
“We have been fortunate to have three great bids, a very transparent process and for the first time we have the results of our evaluation to the public.
“This is the most transparent process.”
The South Africans had sent a high-powered delegation led by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to London for the final assault this week but their hopes to bring the World Cup to South Africa in 2023 failed. Interestingly, it’s not all lost for South Africa.
The last time the World Cup was held in France 10 years ago, the Springboks powered to success as they beat England in the final.
The Springbok fans will be hoping that their team’s French adventure in 2023 will also see them being crowned champions of the world.
The Springboks have been struggling to punch to their weight in recent months and recently suffered a record beating at the hands of the Irish.