The local rugby community is divided over Rugby Africa’s decision to host the African qualifiers for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
The continental rugby governing body on Monday announced its decision to award France the hosting rights of the 2022 Africa qualifiers, also known as the Rugby Africa Cup, in which Namibia is scheduled to compete against Burkina Faso.
This is the final qualifying round for African teams for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. The winner of the 2022 Rugby Africa Cup will qualify for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Namibia, along with Kenya and Zimbabwe, had also bid to host the African qualifiers. But they were all turned down in favour of the European nation, which is already set to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Both Namibia and Kenya have hosted the Rugby Africa Cup before.
Rugby Africa explained its decision, saying: “The well-being, health and safety of the players remained at the heart of the priorities. France 2023 (in charge of organising Rugby World Cup 2023) promises to host a tournament of the highest international standards, whether it is the match stadium, hotels, security measures, health standards relating to Covid-19, or medical infrastructure available”.
Welwitschias’ head coach Allister Coetzee is in two minds about the decision, saying that although it will curtail the development of the sport on the continent, it does provide teams with an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the set-up.
“I’ve never seen such a decision being taken in any other sport code – like a football tournament meant for Africa staged in Europe, or the other way around,” he stated.
“This is a great opportunity to showcase rugby in Africa, develop the game on the continent, and get the interest going in Africa. This competition is important to see the best players in Africa play in front of an African audience.”
However, the senior national team gaffer said there are some positives to hosting it there.
“Having to go to France to play the qualifiers will benefit qualifying teams because the World Cup will be played in that country. This will give African teams the opportunity to work and familiarise themselves with the venues.”
UNAM rugby club head coach Johan Diergaardt liked the idea of taking the tournament to France, basing his opinion on the financial side of things.
He said most African countries do not have the facilities of that standard, and that hosting such a competition requires more funding and outweighs revenues that would be made from the event.
“With the current Covid-19 rules and regulations, it will mean more funding is required. Look at our rugby league – no sponsorship till today. How do we expect to host such a competition if we do not even have a sponsor on board?” Diergaardt asked rhetorically.
Meanwhile, Western Suburbs Rugby Club president James Camm described the idea of the tournament being staged in France as “absurd”.
Camm, who is campaigning in an online petition to have Rugby Africa reverse the decision, said African countries were not given a fair chance to properly bid to host the tournament.
“It’s absurd. I don’t know what they want to achieve with this decision. Namibia is capable of hosting the tournament, but I don’t know what was looked at before the decision was taken,” he charged.