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February 10, 2023 12:08 pm

Lawyer Calls For Investigation Into South African Rugby Union After It Disinvites Israeli Team From Competition


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Members of Tel Aviv Heat competing in the Rugby Europe Super Cup. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

A lawyer in New Zealand has filed a legal submission with the World Rugby Council this week claiming that the South African Rugby Union (SARU) breached the World Rugby Constitution by disinviting an Israeli team from participating in an upcoming competition, The Algemeiner has learned.

SARU made the announcement last week after it faced intense pressure from the anti-Israel group South African BDS Coalition to rescind its invitation to the Tel Aviv Heat, a professional Israeli rugby team, to compete in the Mzansi Challenge. SARU explained its decision in a statement last week as an attempt to “avoid the likelihood of the competition becoming a source of division.” South Africa’s Department of Sport, Arts and Culture offered support for the disinvitation, referring to “safety” concerns.

Ian Dunwoodie, a barrister and solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand, told The Algemeiner in an emailed statement that he believes SARU’s statement is “weak and meaningless.” He said, “this decision seemed even stranger when in the same statement, [SARU] conceded that Israel is a full member of the World Rugby Council and the Israel Olympic Committee.”

In his legal complaint he cites the World Rugby Constitution, which forbids “discrimination of any kind against a country, or against a private person or groups of people,” and may lead to disciplinary action. Due to “apparent breaches of its own constitution,” the World Rugby Council has an “obligation” to investigate SARU’s conduct against Tel Aviv Heat, the complain added.

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SARU did not consult with the Israel Rugby Union, a member of the World Rugby Union, before making its decision, nor did it provide sufficient reasoning for its actions, the complaint stated. It added that SARU did not withdraw invitations to any other teams asked to participate in the competition.

“Due to the flawed steps taken by the SARU, [it] has hurt and prejudiced the game of Rugby,” the complaint said.

Dunwoodie told The Algemeiner that the South African Rugby Union “treated Tel Aviv Heat differently to other teams” set to compete in the Mzansi Challenge and that the SARU’s actions “breached the even-handedness required by the World Rugby Constitution.”

The international competition is set to begin in South Africa on March 24 with teams also from Kenya, Namibia and Zimbabwe, and six South African provinces.

Tel Aviv Heat’s coach Kevin Musikanth, who is South African, said he and his team are “very disappointed and very saddened” by SARU’s actions. He told South African news outlets, “We were very surprised because we were bona fide participants [in the Mzansi Challenge] and everything changed in 24 hours … Other than what was put in the press, that’s the only information that I had. It all happened very quickly.”

He added, “Rugby is a great leveler for any kind of diversity. One thing you can do is play together. Whether we’re aware of it or not in this particular instance, there are things that are way outside ‘my pay grade.’ I want to focus on the rugby and the lost opportunities. We have players from around the world, not only South African, from Fiji and England that have lost out on this now. We have guys who are now without an income.

“They relied on this to feed their families. At the last minute, they are now without opportunities. One of the reasons why they came here was precisely because they didn’t have opportunities. The players, coaches and other stakeholders would’ve been contracted all along.”


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