Mzansi Challenge: World Rugby and SARU silence is deafening
SPOTLIGHT: The polemical Mzansi Challenge will officially get underway this weekend, albeit under a growing cloud of controversy and a new legal threat.
On the eve of Round One – which includes the previously unannounced Frankie Horne-coached, California-based San Clemente Rhinos – a new legal challenge against the tournament has emerged.
The Louis D. Brandeis Centre for Human Rights, the new legal team representing the Tel Aviv Heat, urged the World Rugby to take ‘immediate emergency’ action to reverse the South Africa Rugby Union’s decision to axe the Israeli team from the competition.
The centre is a non-profit legal advocacy organization that works against anti-Semitic discrimination.
However, a massive veil of secrecy and silence has been thrown over attempts to elicit a response from SARU and World Rugby – further clouding what has become a political hot potato.
SARU, after months of not mentioning a word about the event, Thursday put out two trifling paragraphs on the tournament.
It was also the first time they even acknowledged the participation of the San Clemente Rhinos – although trying to sell it as a ‘partnership’ between the Mexican Rugby Union and Rhino Rugby.
Yet, the Rhinos make no mention of the Mexican connection in their dispatches.
SARU’s wimpy attempt to suggest it is ‘business as usual’ is as troubling as their silence over the legal challenges.
It’s as if they hope it will quietly go away.
The Brandeis Center strongly urged the World Rugby to immediately reinstate the Tel Aviv Heat as a competitor in the upcoming international tournament, direct SARU to apologize for its “discriminatory act”, and impose any sanctions they deem appropriate under the World Rugby bye-laws.
They also called on the teams from Kenya, Namibia, and Zimbabwe to withdraw in solidarity with the Heat.
“Teams which participate in competitions could be found to be in violation of World Rugby bylaws and subject to sanctions,” the Heat’s legal team said.
In a letter addressed to World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont, the LDB said: “We understand you have received communications from other stakeholders, including the Heat’s previous counsel at Werksmans, and formal complaints from the Israel Rugby Union and from Ian Dunwoodie.
“We also understand that you have undertaken to respond to these complaints in due course following your review.
“We are concerned, however, that you have not yet interviewed anyone associated with the Heat or requested any evidence from the Heat.
“We stand ready to respond promptly to any inquiries about this matter and to provide evidence to facilitate your investigation, and we look forward to being of assistance.”
The decision to axe the Heat is again linked to the South African BDS Coalition’s threats of violence and is not based on any sound investigation or inquiry.
“In the event that World Rugby is unable to fully address this violation by restoring the Heat to this year’s Challenge, we ask that World Rugby properly include the victims here – the Heat – in its investigative process,” the letter to Beaumont said.
It further claims that the SARU process violated World Rugby bye-laws.
“World Rugby’s finding must direct SARU to apologize to the Heat and to offer them a place in the 2024 Mzansi Challenge; and that it impose any other sanctions it deems appropriate under Regulation 19.4.”
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