South Africa's bid for the 2015 or 2019 Rugby World Cup is likely to be sacrificed tomorrow on the altar of the game's greatest desire, entry into the Olympics.
The full IRB Council, which is meeting in Dublin tomorrow, is set to ratify the recommendation of the World Cup committee that England should host the tournament in 2015 and Japan four years later.
England, because of their enormous financial capacity, were always bankers for the 2015 event, especially as the 2011 event in New Zealand is struggling financially. The IRB needs a whopping financial bonanza in 2015 and England is the one nation guaranteed to provide that.
But the reason Japan is expected to win the vote for 2019 ahead of South Africa is the issue of rugby in the Olympic Games, a dream the IRB has had for the better part of 50 years.
The decision in favour of Japan to become the first country outside the IRB's traditional nations to host a World Cup, is likely to swing the large, highly significant Asian vote in the Olympics behind rugby's cause. It is an overwhelming priority of the IRB to see rugby, in the form of Sevens, included at an Olympics.
As one insider told me "The implications of rugby being accepted in the Olympics are absolutely massive, simply incalculable. Calling yourself an Olympic sport opens so many doors. Nothing would be done to imperil that potential."
It means that, despite the Rand 3 billion the South Africans have invested in their bid, it will very likely cut little ice when the full IRB Council meets to make a final decision. Unless there is a major overturning of the recommendation and every expectation, England and Japan will be confirmed as the hosts and South Africa will face the prospect of, at the very least, a 28 year gap between World Cups.
Is this merited, is it justified? I believe so. To develop as a true world sport, rugby needs to gain entry to the Olympics. For in its Sevens form, countries like Kenya, Japan, South Korea and anywhere else could, with proper preparation and professional expertise, compete significantly in such a tournament.
Under professionalism, the widening of the chasm between the traditional rugby playing countries like South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Wales, France, England and Ireland and the remainder, nations such as Canada, the USA, Fiji, Samoa and others has alarmed many in the game.
There is no way a full XV a side competition could be held in the Olympics and offer the non-traditional countries a reasonable hope of success.
But Sevens is different and it would surely make a magnificent spectacle. By sheer coincidence, but a factor far from overlooked by the IRB members, the Olympic movement is expected to decide this October whether to include rugby Sevens for the 2016 Games. A decision this week to give the 2019 Rugby World Cup to Japan would be timely indeed.
Thus the South African bid is expected to fail. But IRB insiders suggest the South Africans should look in their own back yard for another reason for their likely failure.
The way ticket prices were so grossly distorted by the host nation for the recent British & Irish Lions tour, went down like a lead balloon in official IRB circles. To see a Lions tour played out before half empty stadiums for all the midweek games and even several thousands of seats empty at most of the Test matches, caused anger in official circles.
Not too much may have been said in an official capacity but the word ‘greed' was heard often enough in the corridors of power. Such short term-ism, the grab a profit while you can mentality, looks like coming back to haunt South African rugby for the next two World Cups.
As one IRB insider put it to me this week in the most delicate of ways "Let's just say the South Africans may have learned a lesson from this experience."Reuse content