South Africa’s new sports minister has lifted a ban on the country hosting major events, opening the way for it to submit a bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup by next month’s deadline.
Minister Thulas Nxesi lifted suspensions on three codes – rugby, cricket and netball. Four sports fell short of transformation targets last year and were told by the former sports minister they were not allowed to bid to host any major competitions. The three met their targets in the latest report and were cleared to bid.
Athletics is the only federation not to have its sanction lifted.
The transformation targets in South African sports are aimed at accelerating opportunities for black players, who were not allowed to play top-level sport under apartheid.
On lifting the sanctions, Sports Minister Thulas Nxesi said: “I would like to congratulate rugby, cricket and netball on their improved scores, you were clearly willing to walk the extra mile.”
SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said South Africa can “now put the finishing touches to an outstanding bid” – France and Ireland are also in the running and a decision will be made in November.
“We can now put the finishing touches to what we believe will be an outstanding bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup,” he said.
“This is great news and a tribute to the work that the sport has been doing in recent years to stay in tune and relevant to modern South Africa.”
South Africa’s hosting of the 1995 Rugby World Cup is one of the sport’s most memorable events. The Springboks won the tournament, beating New Zealand in an epic final in front of Nelson Mandela, who had been elected South Africa’s first black president the year before.
Aiming to re-live some of the magic of that tournament, South Africa bid to host again in 2011, 2015 and 2019 but failed with all three bids.
The host country for 2023 will be decided in November, while the next Rugby World Cup will be held in Japan in 2019.