Every rugby fan across the world wishes for their own country to host the Rugby World Cup and to eventually win it on home soil. South African Rugby is one of the few associations of Rugby Union that bid for a World Cup, hosted it and eventually won it back in 1995. The 1995 story is one from a Roald Dahl fairy tale, full of heroics efforts throughout the tournament. South Africa, a new country at the time had just ended apartheid and was looking for something that could inspire unity and cohesion within a country wrought with divisions and sugar-coated reconciliation. The New Dawn of South Africa inspired a Springbok team who played their hearts out in front of their compatriots to win the World Cup against a star-studded All Blacks team.
This opportunity to host a World Cup fared good on the country’s tourism and how it was perceived by the rest of the world. Rugby, a sport then only popular amongst the white population, found its way creeping in the black townships that only knew football (soccer). It created a new market for the sport, new fans and it surely reverberated a country. Followed by that, the South African Football Association took their chances and bid for the lucrative FIFA World Cup and won the bid. South Africa received good reviews across the World for the quality of their stadia and the way the treat tourists. But following 2010, rampant corruption, increasing murder stats and crime stats undid the work of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. During this downfall, sport was also affected as the quality of rugby also decreased with the Springboks having to play second fiddle to a dominant All Blacks. Questions of unity and racial discrimination within Rugby in South Africa kept creeping up as black former players came out to tell their own truths of events. Corruption within SARU, the governing rugby board of the country made the situation direr.
South African Rugby had a renaissance after a dreadful 2015 World Cup campaign that left many with more questions that needed to be answered.
The benefits of hosting a major world sporting event are always immense for the host country. Hosting a major event is often accompanied by a feeling of local pride and a feel good factor often permeates the Host Nation. There are also social benefits as a result of national unity and assisting social inclusion. The increased profile of a host nation may lead to increased business activity and potential inward investment. In addition, should major infrastructural improvements take place this can be a catalyst for significant regeneration activity.
These events present an opportunity to leverage the enhanced profile of the sport by increasing domestic attendances and participation at grassroots level. Many major sports events have been followed by an increase in popularity of the domestic game for example- Australian Super Rugby attendances increased by 8% following the country’s hosting of the Rugby World Cup in 2003 and since hosting the RWC in 2007, France has experienced a 28% increase in the number of registered rugby players. Similarly, major football championships such as the FIFA World Cup and the European Championship have subsequently been followed by increased domestic league attendances in the Host nation.
Events can also deliver a step change in improvement in stadia and training facilities hosting the events. However, in the case of RWC the level of investment required in facilities is likely to be relatively small and manageable compared to other major sporting events, which is itself a competitive strength of the event form a potential Host Nation’s point of view.
A large influx of international visitors, many of whom may not have visited the country or city previously, presents an excellent opportunity to showcase the country and secure repeat visits and positive word of mouth publicity when visitors return home. The RWC 2003 study estimated that 95 of visitors to RWC held in Australia expected to return again, highlighting the potential long term tourism legacy of the event in terms of driving repeat visits to the country.
Though we can’t be sure what the world will look like in the year 2035, we can be sure that rugby will be part of it, and the sport would have grown stronger and stronger then. South Africa would benefit immesnsely in hosting the World Cup. Maybe by then the sport would have evolved where the rest of the African continent would be participating fully. Especially countries that are former British and France colonies.