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While the IRB deserves
credit for creating a World Sevens Series to spread the game of
rugby around the globe, it is a 19 th century Scottish
butcher and his apprentice who were the real architects of what
modern day fans now know as Sevens
In 1883, a rugby committee
met in the small Scottish town of Melrose to consider organising
an athletics meeting or sports day to raise funds at the end
of the rugby season. It was at this meeting that the local butchers
apprentice and Melrose 20-a-side quarterback, Ned Haig, suggested
having a rugby tournament as part of the sports day.
APRIL 13 – NELSON Mandela Bay today celebrates winning the bid to host the South African leg of the fast-paced HSBC Sevens World Series rugby tournament for the next five years, after an announcement by the South African Rugby Union (SARU) this afternoon.
The inaugural event will take place in early December this year. SARU said that Nelson Mandela Bay went the extra mile to compile a bid that outshone the other cities.
“We received some outstanding bids, but the panel came to the unanimous conclusion that the tender provided by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and Eastern Province Kings was a clear winner,” said Jurie Roux, SARU chief executive. “They not only satisfied the standards that we expected from all the bidders, they went the extra mile to research exactly what players, spectators and other stakeholders require and provided innovative solutions for each one. The Panel was convinced Nelson Mandela Bay would produce an absolutely outstanding tournament, based on this document.”
A trio of city role-players collaborated in putting the bid together, including Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality represented by Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism (NMBT), Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU) and the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium. All indications are that it was this united front that was a major factor in winning the city the bid, according to SARU.
Across the Eastern Cape politicians and officials also celebrated. Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture MEC Xolisa Tom said this coup was an achievement for the whole Eastern Cape.
“We are so excited,” said Tom. “We really feel that we deserved this win, it is long overdue because the Eastern Cape is a rugby playing province, so many of our young people play rugby. We want our province to be seen as a sports events destination.”
Tom said that she was keen to meet immediately with all the stakeholders to start planning. Cheeky Watson, president of EPRU echoed her sentiments at the announcement in Cape Town, advising his team that the hard work and planning starts today.
“This is a very exciting moment for Nelson Mandela Bay and the entire Eastern Cape. We are all very well aware that this is the heart and soul of black rugby and we are extremely excited that SARU, the IRB and the sponsors have chosen this region as the South African leg IRB HSBC Sevens Series. Between the IRB Sevens and inclusion in the Olympics, we expect Sevens Rugby to sky-rocket in the region.”
Bay executive mayor, Zanoxolo Wayile said the city was ready to put on a grand show set to the Sevens tone of other host cities like Hong Kong and Dubai and would develop a unique approach to make it a successful event.
“The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is contributing R10,5-million to the event as well as other city support. But the economic spinoffs are expected to total R80-million per year,” said Wayile. “This will mean multipliers rolling out in our local economy as well as international media exposure. This bid is also a coup for not only the city of Nelson Mandela Bay, but also for the province.”
NMBT chief executive Mandlakazi Skefile said she was ecstatic on the prospects this held for the city’s tourism industry. “This announcement means a lot for the city. It secures us a long-term event in the early summer season and will boost the local economy with a cash injection. The IRB Sevens will also raise the profile of Nelson Mandela Bay as a tourist destination.”
She said the city is ideal for such an event. “It is big enough to accommodate the fans and participant, but small enough for them to move quickly within the city. Nelson Mandela Bay is perfectly placed for the tourism industry to benefit from the spinoffs of the event.”
EPRU chief executive Anele Pamba said this achievement would go a long way in establishing the Eastern Cape region as the sports tourism capital of South Africa.
“We have just successfully hosted the South African Ironman, we will host the first All-Blacks test match in 43 years come August 20, we have a wonderful stadium that won architectural awards and have a support base for sports in the region that has already broken records,” said Pamba.
“The Southern Kings launch on June 16, 2009 against the British and Irish Lions fell just 150 people short of a world record attendance for a non-test Lions match. The 48 000 attendees at the Currie Cup promotion game against the Pumas was the biggest crowd ever, eclipsing the FIFA World Cup at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. This shows the community is whole-heartedly committed to sports tourism.”
The stadium operator, Access Management, was also thrilled with the announcement which is forecast to be a sold-out event. “We are elated and would like to thank all the role players who contributed to this successful bid, specifically the mayor, and Nadia Gerwel, Zolile Siswana and NMBT led by Ms Mandlakazi Skefile. This is a huge opportunity for our city and our facility – the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium – to shine,” said Stephan Pretorius, chief executive of the stadium.
Azad Cassim, Airport Manager of Port Elizabeth International Airport said; “As ACSA PE we are extremely proud to be hosting this prestigious event. The airport team together with our stakeholders and the organizers will ensure that all the teams, fans and aircraft are properly facilitated during the event. This will once again put the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality on the map for these events and will do all that is possible to ensure that the event is another great success for Nelson Mandela Bay.”
Fifteen countries participate in the fast-paced and hugely popular tournament which has cinched its place as a crowd puller after its inclusion as an Olympic sport from 2016.