The International Rugby Board announced France as the host of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, much to the dismay of South Africans.
France beat out Ireland and South Africa in the bidding process on Wednesday, and will now host their second World Cup since 2007.
South Africa is no stranger to big events. The country is unique in having hosted a world cup in three different sporting codes –– football, rugby union and cricket. South African rugby fans were shellshocked at the decision to award France the hosting rights, as we all expected South Africa to bag it.
"I think we really deserved it over the French"Chester Williams, former Springbok
Here are five reasons why South Africa was not chosen to host RWC 2023:
1. Developed nations are favoured
Former Springbok Chester Williams told HuffPost he believes that South Africa deserved the hosting rights over the French. But there is a general feeling that non-elite nations like South Africa are being overlooked by countries with more clout.
A look at which countries get to host prestigious events seems to support this statement: the next two Rugby World Cups will be hosted by Japan and France, while the Summer Olympic Games are set to be hosted by Tokyo, Japan in 2020. Then they go to Paris, France in 2024 and Los Angeles, U.S.A. in 2028.
2019 Rugby World Cup🏆 -- Japan🇯🇵
2020 Olympic Games🏅 -- Tokyo, Japan🇯🇵
2023 Rugby World Cup🏆 -- France🇫🇷
2024 Olympic Games🏅 -- Paris, France🇫🇷
2028 Olympic Games🏅 -- Los Angeles, U.S.A🇺🇸
2. Political unrest in SA
Another factor that cannot be ruled out is South Africa's ongoing civil and political tensions, as we work our way through issues like state capture, the upcoming ANC leadership elections, and an economy weakened to the point of junk status. Politics cannot be ignored as a possible reason why we were denied the hosting rights.
Former Springbok Kobus Wiese is one of those who believe political unrest and crime statistics contributed to South Africa's bid losing.
"The only thing that comes to mind is the current situation in our country, unfortunately. The very high levels of crime... that probably counted against us in the end", he said.
3. Recommendations count for nothing
What really came as a shock to most South Africans was losing our bid after the International Rugby Board had recommended us to host in 2023. The announcement was made by World Rugby in late October, after rugby union's global governing body commissioned an independent recommendation as to which country should host the 2023 tournament.
What a joke. What was the point of the evaluation committee? #RWC2023— Simon Borchardt (@SimonBorchardt) November 15, 2017
South Africa was preferred over fellow bidders France and Ireland in the report, as the candidate best able to fulfil the agreed criteria laid out by World Rugby to deliver a successful and profitable tournament.
However, the recommendation was disregarded by voting World Rugby delegates in choosing France, which makes one question whether commissioning an independent evaluation and recommendation serves any purpose at all.
4. Northern hemisphere rules again
Rugby-playing nations tend to be divided into two hemispheres: north and south. The United States, Europe and Asia dominate many international sporting codes by weight of numbers: in rugby union, Europe alone has six nations among the elite and several more with strong reputations that are growing apace.
The southern-hemisphere nations do not really have big enough contingents to sway the awarding of major competitions.
As a result, the southern nations best equipped to host a RWC, namely New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina, get considered less often as the tournament is rotated around the world's rugby-playing nations.
New Zealand was the last southern nation to host the RWC, in 2011. They also co-hosted the inaugural RWC in 1987 with Australia. Apart from those two events, only Australia in 2003 and South Africa in 1995 have hosted the tournament in the southern hemisphere.
What this boils down to, is that come 2023, three World Cups in a row, and six out of 10 tournaments, will have been played in the north.
5. Current Springboks don't inspire confidence
Perhaps the recent catastrophic decline of the Springboks also made an impression on the IRB. South Africa last won the RWC in 2007, 12 years after their first trophy in 1995. Allistar Coetzee now holds two records he won't want as Boks coach, and perhaps faith in South Africa as the rugby powerhouse it was in its glory days has faded.
In the first of the aforementioned records, the All Blacks recorded their biggest win to date over the Springboks with a 57-0 thumping in Albany, New Zealand. Coetzee's response was an unconvincing: "One loss doesn't define this team." The Boks took him at his word, and went on to lose 38-3 to Ireland, another heaviest-ever defeat by an international rival.
However, whether or not the current state of the team influenced the IRB's decision on the 2023 hosting rights, South Africans need to remember that the Coetzee-era Boks are a work in progress. This is a team undergoing transformation, so fans need to accept that it could take a while for South Africa to become a fearsome rugby union giant again.
Note: This article has been revised to correct typographical and factual errors. An earlier version gave the record Ireland-South Africa score as 28-3, rather than 38-3. We regret the errors.