Rugby Union: SA World Cup organiser criticised

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THE South African organiser of next year's World Cup was yesterday peremptorily summoned to Paris this weekend to account for his unilateral decision to reduce the number of venues from 14 to the big six Test grounds.

The directors of Rugby World Cup Ltd are so enraged that Louis Luyt, the chairman of the South African Rugby Football Union's organising committee, seems to have hijacked their tournament that they have made their own appointments specifically designed to rein him in.

'The Rugby World Cup belongs to the world; it certainly doesn't belong to South Africa,' Nic Labuschagne, the World Cup director who has been appointed as a counterweight to Luyt, said at Richmond yesterday when RWC announced a pounds 1.5m sponsorship by the Famous Grouse whisky company.

Henceforth Labuschagne will be directly responsible for representing RWC Ltd in South Africa, even though - or perhaps because - he and Luyt are notoriously antagonistic. Craig Jamieson, the general manager of Labuschagne's union, Natal, has been appointed the tournament manager.

Much to his distress, Luyt will be answerable to both. As soon as he heard the news he rushed on to television yesterday to denounce Jamieson's appointment because he was not on the SARFU shortlist. 'I am so angry,' Luyt quivered.

Luyt's presence in Paris, where France play Ireland on Saturday, has been demanded by RWC, but in Johannesburg yesterday he insisted that he himself had decided on the visit.

RWC suspects that Luyt's motivation - he wants to increase ticket prices as well - is simply to maximise the takings for the Transvaal RU, of which he is president. As he is also chairman of Ellis Park, the Johannesburg stadium that will stage the final on 24 June 1995, there are other potential conflicts of interest. Meanwhile Keith Rowlands, RWC director and International Rugby Board secretary, ruled out a re-draw.

Although there is no chance that Luyt will be granted his wish for six venues (Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria) when he is carpeted in Paris, there is every chance of a compromise reduction, possibly to nine.

In addition, Luyt told his television audience yesterday that he wanted the opening ceremony on 25 May 1995 to be moved from Newlands in Cape Town to his own Ellis Park.

The IRB has now invited 11 countries to come forward with contingency plans for an alternative tournament should the security situation or anything else demand a move away from South Africa. The bids must be in by the weekend.