26 September 2017

South Africa: SA Hopes to Use Rugby World Cup to Unite the World

South Africa is hoping to use the 2023 Rugby World Cup not only to inspire and unite South Africans, but the world, says Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

"In many respects, rugby captures the spirit of the new nation we are forging. It helps to unite all our people, men and women, black and white, rural and urban, rich and poor. In 1995, the Rugby World Cup cemented the bonds between our diverse people. In 2023, we hope to use the Rugby World Cup to inspire and unite not only South Africans, but the global community of nations," he said on Monday.

Speaking at the presentation of South Africa's bid to host the 2023 World Cup, Deputy President Ramaphosa said rugby is more than just a sport as it has helped to transform the country.

It is an important part of our political, social and cultural identity, he said.

"The sport of rugby occupies a unique place in our national heritage. In many ways, it is a bridge between our past and our future. Once, it was a symbol of division and exclusion. Now, it is a symbol of a nation striving together to achieve peace, progress and prosperity," he said at the presentation of the bid in London, United Kingdom.

The Deputy President's comments come as South Africa commemorated Heritage Day on Sunday. Annually, on 24 September South Africa's people celebrate their diversity, languages, traditions and cultures.

The Deputy President spoke of the time Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first democratically elected President, donned the Springbok jersey when the country hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

He said Mandela's donning of the jersey led to a change of attitudes.

"It was arguably at that moment that our country's identity too underwent a profound transformation. Within a matter of days, the old South African flag disappeared from our rugby stadiums to be replaced by the joyous colours of the flag of the democratic South Africa," he said.

South Africa's Constitution promotes fair play and, importantly, the realisation by each individual of their true potential.

Deputy President Ramaphosa said that in a world facing the threat of polarisation, intolerance and indifference, South Africa is best poised to demonstrate that rugby can break barriers, create hope and unite humanity.

"The people and government of South Africa are therefore wholeheartedly behind SA Rugby's bid. We have proven we can deliver. We have successfully hosted the 1995 World Cup Rugby, the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Our sporting venues are excellent. Our transport and communications infrastructure is world class. Our commitment to the success of the 2023 Rugby World Cup is evident in the additional guarantee that we are providing. We see the benefits for our country and our people. This is not an expense, but a worthy investment."

World Rugby will announce the host of the 2023 Rugby World Cup on 15 November 2017.

Other countries bidding to host the tournament are Ireland and France.

The 2023 tournament will take place 200 years after the invention, according to legend, of the game of rugby by William Webb Ellis.

The rugby delegation that is led by the Deputy President includes SA Rugby President Mark Alexander and Chief Executive Officer Jurie Roux.

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