JOHANNESBURG, April 23- South Africa sports minister Fikile Mbalula on Monday barred the national rugby union from bidding for international events because they failed to meet racial transformation targets.
If he keeps his word — something he has regularly not done in the past — it would dash South African hopes of hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
South Africa, France, Ireland and Italy have officially bid to follow 2019 hosts Japan as organisers of the quadrennial rugby union showpiece.
Mbalula said in a statement he was barring the national rugby, cricket, athletics and netball bodies from bidding for international events because racial goals had not been met.
“I have resolved to revoke the privilege of Athletics South Africa, Cricket South Africa, Netball South Africa and South African Rugby to host and bid for major and mega international tournaments in South Africa as a consequence of the aforementioned federations not meeting their own transformation targets with immediate effect,” Mbalula said.
“I will review this decision when considering the results of the 2016-2017 transformation barometer.”
Athletics, cricket and netball are not in line to host international events.
South African Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said the organisation planned to meet Mbalula regarding the 2023 World Cup bid.
“The bidding process is due to start next month but will not conclude until next year by which time SA Rugby hopes to have the right to host reinstated,” Roux said in a statement.
“There is no question that we have more work to do and we could be moving faster.
“But our sport has undergone a major overhaul in how we do business and how we measure ourselves in the past two or three years and we have definitely made great progress.
“Transformation is a key strategic imperative for SA Rugby to remain competitive and to survive in the sporting landscape in our country.”
A string of provincial and national rugby coaches have ignored government pleas to field teams more representative of a country whose population is 91 percent black.
Blacks were banned from representing the national team during the apartheid era.
South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer chose a team comprising 12 whites and three blacks for major matches during the 2015 Rugby World Cup, where they finished third.
The national rugby body and the government have agreed that the 2019 Rugby World Cup team should be at least 50 percent black.
Allister Coetzee, a black who successfully transformed the Western Stormers with nearly half the Super Rugby team non-white in some games, was named national coach this month.
Last year, Mbalula said he wanted a 60 percent black Springboks team with immediate effect, but this did not materialise.