Court's ruling threatens WRC

Rugby Union
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Kerry Packer's attempt to set up a professional rugby circus last night looked doomed to failure after his World Rugby Corporation appeared to have lost their case to try to prevent South Africa's World Cup winning squad from signing up with the South African Rugby Football Union's rival Southern hemisphere tournament backed by the other Australian media magnate, Rupert Murdoch.

The case was struck from the roll of Cape Town's Supreme Court after Ross Turnbull, the WRC director who had brought the matter before the court claiming the players had already signed letters of intent that prevented them committing themselves to any other organisation, asked for more time. WRC were also ordered to pay Sarfu costs which could be as high as pounds 10,000.

A statement issued last night Sarfu read: "Sarfu always believed that there was no merit in the application and that the document allegedly offered by WRC to the South African rugby players is not worth the paper it is written on. It is legally unenforceable. There has also as yet been no response to the challenge by Sarfu that WRC is nothing more than a recently incorporated Australian company with share capital of two Australian dollars.

"If there is any sponsor behind this venture he has been particularly slow to come forward. Sarfu have always believed that, in the words of the judge, this grandiose scheme of WRC has no reasonable hope of success and is completely contrary to the interests of rugby in this country."

The court's decision opens the way for the 28-strong squad to discuss professional terms with their own union and sets an example for those rugby countries whose players are said to have signed documents offered to them by WRC.