NZ Rugby formally probes abuse claims against Crusaders
NEWS UPDATE: New Zealand Rugby launched a formal inquiry on Tuesday into allegations that Crusaders players engaged in homophobic abuse and groped a woman during their recent trip to South Africa.
NZ Rugby Chief Rugby Officer Nigel Cass described the allegations as “very serious” and said a lawyer had been engaged to investigate them.
“These allegations are about abuse, inappropriate and offensive behaviour, and we do not tolerate this,” he said, noting that the players involved strongly disputed the claims.
One incident allegedly involved a group linked to the Crusaders – including at least one player – making homophobic and threatening remarks at a Cape Town fast food restaurant late Saturday after the Super Rugby side’s 19-all draw with the Stormers.
The other reportedly took place at another venue in the same city, when another player is accused of spitting beer on a woman in a bar then pinching her bottom.
Media reports in New Zealand named the player in the bar as flyhalf Richie Mo’unga, while Crusaders coach Scott Robertson told reporters that wing George Bridge was one of those in the restaurant.
Robertson told reporters the incident was “a selfie gone wrong” and Bridge was insistent there was no homophobic behaviour.
Mo’unga, 24, has played nine Tests and is widely tipped to be part of the All Blacks’ World Cup squad as back up to Beauden Barrett.
Bridge, 23, is a fringe international who has played one Test, against Japan last year.
The woman and her friends were at Arcade bar in Cape Town on Saturday night when she said the incident took place, according to a report from Radio New Zealand.
“We got there and we noticed, I was actually telling my friends, these guys they look like New Zealanders, they look like either All Blacks or something,” she said.
“My friends and I were just standing, talking and then we just had… a lot of beer being spat at us and we looked and then my friend and I were shocked at what was happening, I told the guy ‘look here, that’s not okay, you don’t do that’ and he just flat out ignored us and walked away, he looked at us with a dead stare and just walked away.”
She claims a ‘friend’ of the player who spat on the group apologised to the woman and her friends, before they continued to dance.
“And then I noticed the guy behind me, and then he like pinched me on my bum and then as I was going to retaliate, my friend was like ‘no don’t, it’s not worth it’, leaving him and he just also had that like dead look on his face, he had no reaction…carried on partying, everything.”
The group then decided to leave the bar because the woman said, “we were over it”.
“They clearly had no respect for anyone at that place, normally Arcade’s the place where we go to unwind and have fun with one another, but that was the worst experience so far.”
It wasn’t until the next day, after looking at an interview with the Sport Science Institute of South Africa, when the woman realised that the man at the bar was Mo’unga.
“I noticed this guy look really familiar, because it was an interview, and I told my friends ‘look… this guy’s from Arcade’.”
Her friend also agreed that it was Mo’unga who was the man they had encountered the night beforehand.
“It is this guy because he has the exact same haircut, anyone can tell me yes it was dark, no I will never forget that face, I will never forget that face.”
The woman proceeded to message Mo’unga via Instagram to call him out for spitting on her and her friends.
Crusaders chief executive Colin Mansbridge, who on Monday expressed confidence there had been no wrongdoing, said the players were distraught.
Cass said the accusations would be investigated “without prejudice or assumptions”, with all involved, including alleged victims, asked to give their versions of events.
He said the investigation would be finished as soon as possible.
* Meanwhile the man at the centre of the altercation with Crusaders’ players is refusing to stay silent, threatening to release the video footage of the incident, whilst outing the accused on his social media account asking for an apology directly.
Although three players were allegedly involved, Crusaders coach Scott Robertson claims only one player, George Bridge, was involved in what was a “selfie gone wrong”.
“George said ‘mate I just want to have a photo with you’ There was no interaction with anyone else. That’s where the misinterpretation came. A selfie gone wrong really.
“He just can’t understand how it’s got to this platform.”
Robertson reiterated that “no homophobic words or gestures were used”.
Crusaders’ pair George Bridge and David Havili were directly messaged by the accuser via his Instagram story in a taunting fashion.
To David Havili he wrote “remember us from the McDonald’s last night?? haha we found you… you and your teammates are going down.”
After George Bridge failed to respond to the accusser’s question he sent a second message saying “silence speaks volumes sweaty.. we’ll just move this conversation to higher powers since you’re clearly incapable x”
Alexandros Paterimos took to social media to share details of the altercation yesterday and video of a man, believed to be the security advisor, has been circulated.
“We were attacked by members of the New Zealand rugby team in the McDonald’s on Long/kloof st last night. As we entered, we were met with jeering and sniggers from them. They then proceeded to record as a joke (also, upon looking on his phone screen, it was recording for either insta/snapchat),” Paterimos wrote on Instagram.
“We were met with homophobic slurs, limp wrists and high pitched voices which were clearly in jest.
The Crusaders strongly denied the incident in a statement issued Monday, advising that the team will undertake an investigation once the player’s return.
“Allegations have been made via social media that there was a verbal altercation between members of the public and some Crusaders players who were out getting food after the match against the Stormers in Cape Town. The original post claimed players exhibited homophobic behaviour,” the statement read.
“The three players, team management and the South African-based security advisor with them, strongly refute the socialised account of what happened. They are devastated by the allegation and the implication of homophobic behaviour.”
Source: AFP & RugbyPass