SARU CEO Jurie Roux says it would have been “stupid” to suggest that Port Elizabeth remain a host city for the Sevens World Series.
It was announced on Friday that Cape Town had been selected by World Rugby as one of ten cities which will host a revamped Series next season, after the Western Cape capital was put forward by SARU as a potential host.
The tournament took place in Port Elizabeth for the from 2011 to 2014, during a period when SARU ploughed resources into growing the game in the Eastern Cape in attempt to ensure the development of black players and transform rugby at all levels.
Moving the tournament away from the Eastern Cape could dent those efforts, but Roux says Port Elizabeth simply did not meet World Rugby’s criteria.
"I don’t think (Cape Town is) bigger or better, I just think the iconic status had a lot to do with it. It was very specific criteria," he said.
"So if you go into a tender process to have a leg in South Africa and the very first criterion is an iconic city in terms of their definition and it has a massive weighting it would just be stupid to try and push another city.
"I don’t think we would had lost (if Port Elizabeth was put forward), but we would have a tough battle with some other destinations that are tendering in the world.
"We have cities like New York tendering as well, and they are destinations. According to the criteria we had to put forward a bid not only address their criteria, but the criteria of the sponsors."
SARU’s plans for the Eastern Cape will peak next year when the Kings enter Super Rugby for the foreseeable future, but the decision not to put forward Port Elizabeth as a Sevens World Series host seems in opposition to these transformation plans.
Roux says SARU was not willing to risk losing the tournament leg altogether, as this would have been an even bigger knock to transformation.
"I’m going to take it back to a very simple equation. We want to transform rugby in this country. One of the vehicles for transforming rugby is Sevens. One of the aspirational platforms is having a South African leg of the World Sevens Series," he said.
"So if I don’t have it, how do I transform, how do I build an aspirational platform? How do we as SARU actually present something that we don’t have? I think people are seeing spooks in this.
"This is not a PE/Cape Town decision. This is a South African rugby, World Rugby decision about getting a leg of the Series into South Africa."
It was announced earlier this week that the Australian leg of the event would be moving from the Gold Coast to Sydney. Canada will also host a leg in the revamped series, after Vancouver was named as a host.
The cities have all been selected by World Rugby from tenders put forward by all of the organisation’s affiliates. The full list of venues and dates will be announced in the coming days.
By Liam Moses