Cape Town – Sports minister Fikile Mbalula was in Cape Town on Friday to wish the Springboks well ahead of their clash against Ireland on Saturday.
And while it was a nice touch, it wasn’t at all what the media wanted to talk about when given the opportunity to engage with the man they call “Razzmatazz”.
Instead, Mbalula was asked to shed light on South Africa’s bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
A dose of bad news was followed by a glimmer of hope, but in the end there was no finality on whether or not SA Rugby would be able to continue with their bid to host the tournament.
Mbalula banned the national federations for cricket, rugby, athletics and netball from bidding for or hosting major international events back in April after an Eminent Person’s Group (EPG) report revealed that those federations had not met their transformation targets for 2014/15.
The ban, Mbalula confirmed on Friday, would only be reviewed in March 2017.
That places South Africa’s bid to host the 2023 showpiece at serious risk.
It is understood that SA Rugby must have the approval of government before September 1, the date they are required to submit their final bid documentation to World Rugby.
“The rescinding of the ban will be determined in the coming year in terms of how far they have gone in terms of targets,” Mbalula said.
“If they’ve (SA Rugby) done well, then of course we will look to review the ban and the decisions that we have taken, but for now they stand.
“We have said that we will impose it for the year under review and that is what we’ll do. Next year we will pronounce whether we rescind or intensify.”
But, by next year March, it will surely be too late to salvage the bid.
SA Rugby need to engage with World Rugby now in order to meet their deadlines, but Mbalula could not provide clarity on whether or not they would be allowed to do that.
“The discussions in terms of the deadlines will be determined by the work that is being done. We have always been open to discussions. I’ve met with rugby, I’ve met with netball … nobody has said to me that they think the punishment is harsh,” Mbalula added.
“The commitment between us and them to realise those targets is unflinching because that is what is fundamental to what we want to achieve. We don’t do things for the sake of it. It’s made everybody focus on the job that needs to be done … genuinely so.
“There is nothing that will be uplifted tomorrow … we have said that we imposed the ban for not meeting the targets. That ban will be reviewed in next year March.”
That all paints a rather bleak picture in terms of 2023.
But then, out of nowhere, Mbalula provided a ray of light.
“I’m more than convinced that with regard to the targets for the first year, SARU will be able to overcome and (after) the period under review will be in a position to met those targets and be able to continue the bid,” he said.
“I’m quite excited about that.”
Just how SA Rugby will continue its bid while serving the ban isn’t clear, but if the sports minister thinks that we will be in a position to bid for the tournament, then that can only be seen as good news.