The FIFA World Cup is over and things in the sporting world are gradually returning to normal. We at Rugby New Zealand 2011 are beginning to mull over what we can learn from South Africa's experience.
The good news for us is that no longer do we have to set our alarm clocks to wake us up at ungodly hours to tune in and support our team. New Zealanders are still smiling quietly about the fact that our beloved All Whites were the only team to go through the tournament unbeaten and their wholehearted determination to compete won hearts aplenty.
The buzz that their performances and their results created in New Zealand not only bodes well for the future of football here but also is already having a really positive spin-off in terms of Kiwis looking forward to and becoming excited about what is in store for us when we host RWC 2011 next year.
Congratulations also to the Rainbow Nation for a mighty effort. You overcame huge challenges and countless doubters to deliver a wonderful tournament and visitor experience. In the last 15 years, South Africa has excelled in hosting three major world championships, Rugby in 1995, Cricket in 2003 and now Football in 2010. It is an impressive resume. What's next for you? Maybe the Olympics?
The stadia looked amazing, especially Soccer City, the venue for the final. I see the third 2010 tri-nations encounter between South Africa and New Zealand has been transferred from Ellis Park to Soccer City and is already a 90,000 sell-out. Our upgraded stadia for RWC 2011 won't be quite as spectacular but will still serve us well next year and well beyond.
The pre-tournament concerns about security and accommodation seemed to dissipate, or disappear altogether, as the 200,000+ visiting fans set out to have a good time. Like South Africa, we have an accommodation challenge and, like them, the solution will lie within the wide variety of options created for our visitors.
I spoke with several South African Rugby journalists in New Zealand last week for the first two Tri-Nations matches. They were still on a high from the overpowering feeling of unity that evolved amongst all South Africans as the nation pulled itself together to shine. Some of them said to me that it was better than the Mandela-inspired "one nation" experience during RWC 1995 which was captured in the film Invictus.
Our event is of a different size to FIFA World Cup, being held in vastly different circumstances. But so much of what South Africa did, we will set out to do. Just as for them, for us it is all about hosting. It is all about giving our visiting guests the best experience possible.
And just as South Africa did not allow their hosting efforts to be distracted by the fortunes of their own team, neither can nor will we. We will back the All Blacks to the hilt but we will find a balance which ensures that, at the same time, we look after those who have travelled to New Zealand to support their teams and to experience everything our country has to offer.