The landmarks on a troublesome road

Rugby Union World Cup: Owen Slot traces the staging posts on the path that leads to Ellis Park next month
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15 APRIL 1992: At an International Rugby Board meeting in Wellington, South Africa is given the go-ahead to stage the 1995 World Cup. "We are mindful of the political uncertainties that still exist," Dudley Wood, secretary of the RFU, says, "but we hope they will be resolved by 1995."

15 AUGUST: South Africa are welcomed back to the international fold with a Test match against New Zealand at Ellis Park, Johannesburg. Far worse than the losing 27-24 scoreline is a speech by Uli Schmidt, the Springbok hooker, condemning plans to hold a training session in a black township. This was a serious setback in public relations .

14 NOVEMBER: The first South African Test match in England since 1969. England win 33-16, but the event is clouded by a threat from Steve Tshwete, the ANC's spokesman for sport, that the ANC will not sanction any more South African tours unless the game at home fulfils its promise of starting a development programme in black townships. For the first time, the staging of the World Cup in South Africa is put in real doubt.

19 JANUARY 1993: Directors of the Rugby World Cup (RWC) meet ANC officials in Johannesburg. Overtures from SARFU officials persuade Tshwete to give the World Cup full backing.

10 SEPTEMBER: Nic Labuschagne, the South African representative on RWC, resigns from his position on the SARFU after falling out with Louis Luyt, the SARFU president who is in charge of the South African end of the operation. This is a blow to the tournament's organisation as the RWC had placed Labuschagne to liaise between the two bodies. Two weeks later, the RWC admit for the first time that an alternative venue is being considered. This is partly thanks to anxieties over violence and political instability in South Africa, and also to a feeling that Luyt has been trying to hijack the event for his own ends.

10 JANUARY 1994: The IRB invites 11 countries to come forward with contingency plans for an alternative tournament. This is because Luyt, having previously agreed to a 14-venue competition, announced in the press that only the six South African Test stadiums would be used. Luyt is hen summoned to a RWC meeting in Paris; they agree on a nine-venue competition.

15 APRIL: Instability escalates in the build-up to the South African elections. New South Wales have already turned down an invitation to play in Durban and now questions are raised over England's tour to South Africa the following month. "I hear the South African government have guaranteed the safety of all athletes entering the country," Will Carling says. "Well, how can you do that? You can't." The England tour is now seen as a trial run for the World Cup.

27 APRIL: The South African elections are an unqualified success. The England tour goes ahead and is a qualified success. The only doubt that now remains is whether South Africa will be ready to stage the competition

SEPTEMBER: Labour disputes in Cape Town stall work on Newlands, one of four stadiums being modernised. By Christmas, 24-hour shifts are required to make up for lost time.

JANUARY 1995: Rising crime figures cause new worry for the World Cup organisers. In Natal in January, 100 murders are recorded, most of them the result of robberies at gunpoint. The World Health Organisation describes South Africa as the "murder capital of the world".

MARCH: Newlands stadium is ready for public viewing. On top of the Railway Stand, a new tier has been built. The first visitors notice that at least 200 spectators at the top of the old stand will be unable to see anything. The organisers are questioned about this. They shrug their shoulders, the tickets have already gone out.

18 APRIL: Striking postal workers stage a protest march through Pretoria. Lefty Monyokolo, president of the Post and Telecommunications Workers' Association, says: "If we are not given better salaries, there will be no rugby."

21 APRIL: Steve Tshwete, now sports minister, tells a news conference that South Africa could host the football World Cup and the Olympic Games if it made a success of the rugby World Cup. "A successful World Cup could change the course of our country's future ... the consequences of failure are too ghastly to contemplate," he says.

15 MAY: More than 450,000 tickets are returned from abroad, vindicating opinion that RWC had overpriced them. "All the RWC directors should resign ... The present arrangement has been a failure," Luyt is quoted as saying in a Pretoria newspaper. Luyt denies having said this.

17 MAY: Concern over crime escalates with the news that there have been 40 murders in five days in Natal.

18 MAY: Further warnings of union action in Cape Town when Xolile Nxu, the president of the Western Province Congress of South African Unions, threatens to "disrupt the tournament" if labour demands are not met.

20 MAY: Telephone lines are still not up in media centres which were supposed to have been fully functional 10 days before the tournament.

21 MAY: Both Newlands and the new stadium in Bloemfontein are surrounded by thousands of tons of rubble which is blocking access roads. There are other worries over whether the airports can cope with the traffic and over hotels which have been overbooked. But the biggest concern is for the safety of the thousands of visitors. Gullivers, the World Cup tour operators, include in their ticket packages a three-page document full of safety tips. The South Africans themselves are aware of the problem and many now carry hand-guns. Indeed, weapons have become so much the way of life that the police have had to announce that at the stadiums - where safety is guaranteed - those who come armed will be turned away.

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