Kiwi barrister explains why he reported SARU to World Rugby
NEWS UPDATE: World Rugby has been formally dragged into the blowout over the South African Rugby Union’s decision to “withdraw” an invitation to Tel Aviv Heat to play in the Mzansi Challenge.
SARU President Mark Alexander announced the withdrawal in a statement on Friday, February 3.
“We have listened to the opinions of important stakeholder groups and have taken this decision to avoid the likelihood of the competition becoming a source of division, notwithstanding the fact that Israel Is a full member of World Rugby and the IOC,” Alexander said.
This did not go down well with the Israeli outfit.
“The Tel Aviv Heat was surprised and disappointed to learn of the decision taken by SARU to withdraw its invitation to the Tel Aviv Heat to compete in the upcoming 2023 Mzansi Challenge,” the Heat said in a strongly-worded statement.
The Heat took exception to SARU saying they had “listened to the opinions of important stakeholder groups”.
“SARU did not consult with the Tel Aviv Heat, the Israel Rugby Union, or the Israeli Embassy in South Africa prior to the decision,” the Heat said in its own statement.
And the saga has taken a couple of intriguing twists since – including the revelation that South African BDS Coalition threats are linked to the withdrawal of the invitation and that New Zealand high court barrister and solicitor Ian Dunwoodie has filed a formal complaint with World Rugby.
The withdrawal of the invitation by SARU came on the same day that the BDS Coalition issued a threatening statement.
The anti-Israel group – a self-proclaimed network of Palestine solidarity organisations and the South African affiliate to the Palestinian BDS National Committee – said “if this apartheid Israeli team [Tel Aviv Heat] comes to play in South Africa, SARU will have blood on its hands.”
The BDS Coalition also celebrated their ‘victory’ after the SARU announced the decision to withdraw the invitation to Tel Aviv Heat to take part in the Mzansi Challenge.
It was followed by a statement of ‘support’ from the South African government, which seemed to acknowledge that the BDS threats were real.
Dunwoodie confirmed to @rugby365com that he filed a complaint with World Rugby over the development.
“I made the submission to World Rugby in my personal capacity,” he said.
His submission was submitted to World Rugby on February 7.
Dunwoodie told @rugby365com that he suspected there were “no credible threats” and perhaps SARU caved into a few small groups with strong opinions.
“The SARU President [Alexander] said that he withdrew the invitation ‘to avoid the likelihood of the competition becoming a source of division’. The reason seems to be on the grounds of safety,” the Kiwi barrister said.
“If this is the case, I would encourage Alexander to release the Threat Assessment Report that was presumably compiled by the SARU.”
“This report would no doubt have been made in consultation with security professionals and the South African Police. The report will surely set out the nature of those threats.
“If no such report was produced it does bring into question what divisions are being referred to.
“It would be sad and somewhat embarrassing if he capitulated because of a few rumours and an angry phone call.
“If there are credible threats of violence the security service needs to investigate.
“It would seem a sorry day for public safety and the rule of law if such threats were left unchallenged.”
He asked who was responsible for these ‘threats’ and if they exist.
“It does seem peculiar that any threats were not discussed with the Israel Rugby Union or the Tel Aviv Heat team itself.
Dunwoodie said the repercussions of the decision could be huge for SARU.
“As World Champions and a superpower, SARU probably has a special responsibility to smaller unions that are developing their game,” he told @rugby365com.
“This episode involves teams from five or six countries.
“This is not just domestic rugby.
“SARU are the custodians, for the meantime, of the World Cup.
“Given their response to some alleged threats, it might have wider repercussions.
“Is the SARU actually saying that South Africa is no longer a safe venue for international sporting events?
“If so, it would seem that foreign teams who are planning to tour should take this on board.
“I imagine this could impact the hosting of future tournaments being considered by international administrators.”
Dunwoodie has a background in sport and – like many New Zealanders and South Africa – is a keen follower of the game played with an oval-shaped ball.
“I have, if memory serves me correctly, watched each Rugby World Cup since it began in 1987,” he said, adding: “This includes the 1995 Final at Ellis Park, and the 2019 Final [in Yokohama in Japan,” both won by the Springboks.
“Most people agree that South Africa is a great rugby nation, [but] please forgive me if I’m not prepared to say the greatest!”
He has lived, worked or studied in Washington, London and Tel Aviv.
“These days I live at home in New Zealand,” Dunwoodie said, adding: “I am New Zealand-born.
“I am not Israeli. I am not Jewish.”
* Read Ian Dunwoodie’s submission to World Rugby below …
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