‘Threat of violence’ leads World Rugby to back SA Rugby decision to withdraw invitation to Tel Aviv Heat

Picture: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Picture: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Published Apr 28, 2023


Durban - Rugby’s international governing body, World Rugby, has backed SA Rugby’s decision to withdraw an invitation to Israeli rugby team Tel Aviv Heat because of threats of violence.

The Tel Aviv Heat had been invited by South Africa to play in the Mzansi Challenge, with four other international teams and six South African provinces, only for the invitation to be later rescinded.

This was met with indignation by the Israeli Rugby Union and they angrily reported SA Rugby to the world governing body, citing “discrimination.”

South African Rugby Union president Mark Alexander had said: “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.”

A report from Israel has now revealed that World Rugby has accepted the claim by SA Rugby that the Tel Aviv team’s participation could have resulted in security concerns.

A story in the Jewish Report says “World Rugby did not receive sufficient evidence to support claims by the Israel Rugby Union (IRU) that the motive for the decision was discriminatory.”

In a letter to SA Rugby, as well as to the IRU, World Rugby said it was satisfied with SA Rugby’s explanation.

It said it had conducted an investigation into the charges of discrimination that were raised by the IRU, but did not have evidence to support this.

Documents and events which helped it to review the saga included public reaction on social media to an Israeli team visiting the country; a Facebook post referring to a “blood bath” at the competition matches; a statement on 3 February from the South African Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) coalition that “If this apartheid Israeli team comes to play in South Africa, SARU will have blood on its hands”; a statement from the department of sports, arts and culture supporting SARU’s decision “to ensure a safe environment for its tournaments”; and various media articles referencing “unrest, division, and threats”.

IOL Sport