South Africa will apply to host the 2021 Rugby League World Cup after losing out to Australia and New Zealand for 2017, it has been announced.
The Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) opted to play it safe in awarding the 15th World Cup to two of the "big three" in preference to South Africa, the only other bid on the table.
South Africa, who entered a team in the 1995 and 2008 World Cups, have only a fledging domestic game but argued they could help spread the game internationally and believed, as hosts, they would have been granted government recognition.
"The bid from South Africa was very strong, prepared professionally and clearly demonstrated a passion for rugby league that is growing by the day in that country," chairman of the bid committee and RLIF vice-chairman Nigel Wood said.
Kobus Botha, president of South African Rugby League (SARL), said: "South Africa will now endeavour to work with the Rugby League International Federation to ensure the growth of the sport here and will look at establishing a strong team to qualify for the 2017 World Cup."
SARL and the RLIF have already entered into discussions at ways of developing the game in South Africa through a series of international tournaments and exhibition matches to ensure that the nation is in a position to apply again to host the 2021 World Cup.
"All of the facilities and aspects unique to South Africa to ensure expansion of the game are still available to the RLIF," added Botha.
Ian Riley, chief executive of the South African bid, said that the process had already generated positive spin-offs.
"Rugby league in South Africa now has a voice and the process of bidding has allowed SARL to start conversations with SASCOC, the SRSA and SARU towards recognition and support," he said.
"It has also created dialogue between, and shown a willingness by, major rugby league countries to get involved and play a role in developing the sport.
"We are in discussions with the RLIF on creating a seven-year roadmap for rugby league in South Africa and other territories to see how we can collectively grow the game."
It will be the third time Australia and New Zealand have staged the event together, after they were co-hosts in 1968 and 1977.
Australia successfully staged the 2008 World Cup, managing to generate good crowds and a profit of around £2million which was ploughed back into the international game, but that was topped in 2013 by the effort organised by England and Wales who are expected to double the profit when the final figures are produced.
Wood said: "This was not a simple decision but with fans of international rugby league buoyed by the recent success of RLWC2013, we were determined to get it right.
"Both bids were thoroughly compelling but the joint Australia/New Zealand bid was selected as the one with the greatest chance of success in providing more compelling games in world class environments in front of big, passionate crowds."
The Australasian bid is thought to have included games in Papua New Guinea, with the possibility of further fixtures staged in other Pacific Islands.
Meanwhile, the NRL has announced that the Sydney Football Stadium will host the 2014 Anzac Test on Friday, May 2.
It will be the first time the Kangaroos have played the Kiwis in Sydney since the 2008 World Cup and their first outing since regaining the trophy at Old Trafford in November.
"Together with New Zealand we will stage a World Cup that will capture the imagination of fans and leave a lasting legacy for the sport," said NRL chief executive Dave Smith.
"It's such an exciting time for the international game and members and fans across Australia and New Zealand now have a special opportunity to be part of it.
"There are unrivalled opportunities to continue growing international rugby league over the next four years and for the Kangaroos that starts with the Sydney Test against New Zealand in May."
The NRL has also announced the Pacific Test between Fiji and Samoa will be held at at Penrith on Saturday, May 3, with the winners earning a place in the end-of-season Four Nations Series.