Francois Pienaar

'A passionate affair'

2005-08-10 12:34

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Rugby World Cup bid CEO Francois Pienaar writes to News24 in a regular open letter.

Dear News24,

As the contest for the right to stage the IRB Rugby World Cup in 2011 gathers pace, one particular word seems to be cropping up more and more often in bid-related conversation.

The word is "passion".

Passion, the consensus runs, is important for any prospective host country because it is passion for rugby union that drives ticket sales, moves merchandises, sells various hospitality packages and, therefore, underpins the financial success of the event.

In South Africa, we do have a passion for rugby.

This much has been made abundantly clear during the past three weeks, a frenetic period of our campaign.

Fantastic Springbok victory

We have staged the official SA 2011 Bid match, the fantastic Springbok victory against Australia at Ellis Park; we have facilitated the inaugural match of the African Leopards, the continental team that will motivate rugby stars all over Africa.

We have also organised an highly successful tour by the IRB RWC 2011 technical committee; and welcomed the IRB Executive Committee and the RWCL Board, who both held meetings in Cape Town last week.

Passion was everywhere.

It was visible throughout the crowd on Saturday July 23rd at Ellis Park, where Madiba's 87th birthday was celebrated by the sort of Springbok victory that warms this country's soul.

The stadium was packed to capacity, as it had been for both Tests against France, in Port Elizabeth and Durban, and South Africa's passion for rugby was written large on every beaming face as Jake White's team overcame the Wallabies.

What does this mean for our bid?

Well, it brings credibility to our projection that, in 2011, for the very first time in RWC history, we will sell more than two million tickets to the event's 48 matches.

Extremely conservative

This is a very confident prediction because it is extremely conservative, based on selling no more than 80% of the total number of tickets available.

More passion filled the room when the first African Leopards squad, drawn from 10 countries across the continent, assembled for their capping ceremony in Sandton.

This team has been formed to bridge the gap between embryonic national associations in Africa and Tier 3 rugby nations, and the Leopards' excellent performance against a strong SA Students' team augurs well.

I witnessed the passion among the players gathered from as far north as Tunisia, as far west as Senegal, as far east as Kenya and as far south as Cape Town, and I am sure this team will prove to be an immense success.

Genuine boost

Rugby is already growing all over Africa, and a 2011 Rugby World Cup in South Africa will provide a genuine boost to real and lasting expansion of the game.

What does this mean for our bid?

It means our bid pledge - to grow the game - is more than just words.

We believe Africa offers the world's most fertile ground for rugby, and the African Leopards will lead this boom.

The IRB Technical committee was frequently doused in rugby passion as well.

They requested no media profile for their four-day visit to our country but, wherever they went, whether they met the CEOs of major companies or hotel cleaners, they encountered South Africans who are passionate about rugby, and passionate about the prospect of hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

I understand the experience of the officials attending the IRB Executive Committee and RWCL Board meetings in Cape Town was equally unequivocal and unmistakable.

Our carefully paced, meticulously planned campaign remains precisely on track, and is gathering momentum.

Why?

The answer is simple.

Our bid, our conviction that we will host the best ever Rugby World Cup in 2011, our firm belief that we will genuinely grow the game is propelled by - you guessed it - passion.

Best,

Francois

  • Francois Pienaar is the Rugby World Cup bid CEO, visit the official bid site at www.sa2011.co.za
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