NZRU shocked by Maori ruling

The New Zealand Rugby Union are surprised at Saru’s stance that may cause the Boks’ match against the Maori to be scrapped.

Saru said yesterday the proposed fixture in Soweto, which would form part of the Boks’ preparations for the British & Irish Lions, may not go ahead as the Kiwi team is selected on racial lines.

A Saru statement said the fixture caused problems as “the financial viability of the project, logistics around venues and player availability and the fundamental stumbling block of a long-established President’s Council resolution forbidding the appearance of SARU teams against opponents selected along racial lines”.

NZRU general manager Neil Sorenson said he and acting MD of Saru Andy Marinos had been organising the fixture since late last year.

“Last night’s news was a bolt out of the blue,” Sorenson told rugbyheaven.co.nz, adding that there was “never a hint” of this legislation in their discussions.

“They have been excited about the prospect [of the match].”

New Zealand race relations commissioner Joris de Bres even wrote a letter to Saru to ensure the match goes ahead.

The letter said: “I have no problem with the concept of a Maori rugby team, or a European rugby team, or a Chinese rugby team, as long as our national, regional and local representative teams are open to people of all ethnicities.  This is ethnic diversity, not racial discrimination.”

Sorenson also added the NZRU were determined the match takes place, despite Saru’s stance.

“It will be amazing if we can make it work … it’s daunting but exciting,” he said.

Sorenson did not want to comment on South Africa’s history of being forced to pick quota players since readmission.

“I’ve only read what has been reported and I don’t really want to comment on it. It’s a complex issue.”