MPL and caucus whip Pine Pienaar last week put in a heartfelt plea to the Bhisho Legislature in support of Port Elizabeth’s bid to host the IRB HSBC Sevens World Series.
“While I am grateful to say the Soccer World Cup also put the Eastern Cape on the map and that way can lay claim to having put our best foot forward for the world to see, let’s not get carried away too much. We still have a long way to go.
“Since the euphoria of the World Cup started to fade, we have slowly been fading back towards our lazy ways. Last week I read about Nelson Mandela Bay’s bid to host the internationally acclaimed IRB HSBC Sevens World Series.
“It reminded me of our bid a few years back to get the rugby franchise – The Spears – off the ground. I can still remember the excitement of the members of this very same House when I handed to each and every one of them a Spears cap. Everybody was so keen to get their hands on the free cap and there were smiles all round when I asked the Office of the Premier to support this initiative, but in the end I was the lone soul fighting for the Spears.
“I asked for a provincial lobby group to represent our province nationally and internationally so we can compete with the likes of Gauteng and the Western Cape to bring events and conferences to our province. Everyone smiled, but nobody did anything.
“We have lost The Spears and we have lost the World Games because of this.
“Now I read that the bid to host the World Sevens has gathered momentum because Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism threw its weight behind the tender. Fifteen countries participate in this fast-paced and hugely popular tournament. This is going to be big if we can just pull it off. Sevens Rugby will even be an Olympic sport from 2016. The Metro is bidding for a five-year contract to host it and we – as a province – should support this bid.
“Unlike the Spears bid, I am not handing out caps or rugby balls, I am merely asking the members of this house and the Office of the Premier to support the Metro in every way possible to make this bid a reality.
“The event would bring economic spin-offs and tourists to our province and raise the international profile of not only Nelson Mandela Bay -but also the Eastern Cape.
“It is not good enough that Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism should fight for this alone. We need the Eastern Cape Government and Eastern Cape Tourism and Parks wholeheartedly behind this bid as well.
“It takes team efforts to get things right. There are many individuals with great ideas. I think of Stanford Slabbert who was fighting a lone battle for water sports in Port Elizabeth.
“Nowadays it’s the EP Rugby Union President Cheeky Watson fighting the lone battle to get games and events to the world-class Port Elizabeth multi-purpose stadium. But how long will he be able to keep up the fight if we don’t support him as a provincial government.
“We need to put a structure in place that will assist these lone rangers. We cannot sit on our hands any longer. We need to be professional and we need to be seen to be professional, otherwise other provinces will take out ideas and run with it,” he said.