South African government approves 2023 Rugby WCup bid

FILE - In this file photo dated Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, reaching for the ball during the 2015 Rugby World Cup at Twickenham Stadium, London. South Africa’s new sports minister Thulas Nxesi on Tuesday May 9, 2017, lifted a ban on the South Africa Rugby Federation hosting major events, opening the way for it to submit a bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, FILE )

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — South Africa's new sports minister on Tuesday lifted a ban on the rugby federation hosting major events, opening the way for it to submit a bid for the 2023 World Cup by next month's deadline.

Minister Thulas Nxesi lifted suspensions on three codes — rugby, cricket and netball. Four sports fell short of transformation targets last year and were told by the former sports minister they were not allowed to bid to host any major competitions. The three met their targets in the latest report and were cleared to bid. Athletics again failed to meet its targets.

The transformation targets in South African sports are aimed at accelerating opportunities for black players, who were not allowed to play top-level sport under apartheid.

The federation, SA Rugby, would now submit detailed bid documents to World Rugby by the June 1 deadline, its president, Mark Alexander said.

"We can now put the finishing touches to what we believe will be an outstanding bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup," he said.

Ireland and France are also expected to bid.

South Africa's hosting of the 1995 Rugby World Cup is one of the sport's most memorable events. The Springboks won the tournament, beating New Zealand in an epic final in front of Nelson Mandela, who had been elected South Africa's first black president the year before.

Aiming to re-live some of the magic of that tournament, South Africa bid to host again in 2011, 2015 and 2019 but failed with all three bids.

The host country for 2023 will be decided in November, while the next Rugby World Cup will be held in Japan in 2019.

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