WORLD CUP 2023: SARU to retain 'moral high ground'
VIDEO REACTION: The South African Rugby Union will not stoop to underhanded tactics to ward off last-ditch bids by France and Ireland in the race to host the World Cup.
On Tuesday World Rugby revealed that South Africa is the preferred candidate to host the 2023 tournament, following a rigorous assessment of the competing bids.
SA took a step closer to winning the bidding process when it edged ahead of France and Ireland as the candidate best able to fulfil the agreed criteria laid out by World Rugby - to deliver a successful and profitable tournament.
The final hurdle will be November 15, when the recommendation will be put to the vote of the World Rugby Council in London.
All three candidates will appear on the ballot paper, but World Rugby has stressed to its members that recommendation of the Evaluation Committee should be taken into consideration.
SARU CEO Jurie Roux spoke of the delight and relief of having crossed the first hurdle.
"We anticipated that we can go through this process maintaining the moral high ground," he said, dismissing any suggestion that underhanded tactics of any kind were at play.
"We would not have been part of this process if this was not an independent process," Roux said, adding: "We knew what the guidelines, criteria and process would be.
"Every candidate was reminded of the code of conduct and World Rugby was pretty transparent."
Roux said they never visited individual unions, only making presentations to unions in groups or regions.
"The exception was New Zealand, but SARU ensured independent observers were present.
"We will stick to those guidelines," the SARU CEO said, adding: "We want to be judged by only one aspect and that is the document we handed in."
He made it clear World Rugby has kept a tight grip on proceedings.
The other aspect that came to the fore was the role South Africa's deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, played in the success SARU's bid committee has achieved so far.
Ramaphosa was a crucial addition to the South African bid committee that travelled to London last month to present its case.
"We said it before and I will say it again, our deputy president [Ramaphosa] made a fundamental difference, along with the other delegates that were there."
Ireland used rock stars and France attempted to woo the panel with the late All Black legend Jonah Lomu's sons.
However, SARU President Mark Alexander agreed with Roux.
"Having the vice president at the presentation was a real killer blow to the process," he said.
"He represented the country very eloquently and I think he was received well by World Rugby."
According to the report card that World Rugby has issued after its independent examination of the bids, South Africa outshone its competitors in the categories of 'venues and host cities' and 'tournament infrastructure'.
By Jan de Koning