Fri, Feb 20, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Officials play down S African comments on NZ Maori match

AFP , WELLINGTON

New Zealand rugby officials yesterday downplayed comments that South Africa may scrap a match with NZ Maori because the team is selected along racial lines.

The match has been described by South African coach Peter de Villiers as imperative for preparing his side for the three-Test British and Irish Lions series in June.

But a statement on the South African Rugby (SARU) Web site said there were a number of obstacles to be overcome before the Maori game could be confirmed.

These included “the fundamental stumbling block of a long-established President’s Council resolution forbidding the appearance of SARU teams against opponents selected along racial lines,” the statement said.

New Zealand’s manager of professional rugby, Neil Sorensen, said discussions were continuing with de Villiers and South African Rugby’s acting managing director, Andy Marinos.

The racial issue “is obviously just one of the many things that SA Rugby will need to discuss internally but we obviously hope that the match will take place and will hold further talks with SA Rugby over the coming week,” he said.

Maori players were banned from touring South Africa with the All Blacks during South Africa’s apartheid era.

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