Rugby Union: Court backs Mandela inquiry

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The Independent Online
SOUTH AFRICA'S highest court has vindicated former President Nelson Mandela in a court case over his investigation into racism in rugby.

Yesterday the Constitutional Court overturned a lower court ruling that had quashed a Mandela-ordered investigation into racism and mismanagement in the South African Rugby Football Union. The panel said the Pretoria High Court Judge William de Villiers was wrong in ruling last year that Mandela's appointment of the commission of inquiry in 1997 was unconstitutional.

Many people were angered that Mandela was dragged into court in the case brought by SARFU. De Villiers, appointed to the bench under apartheid rule, inflamed passions further when he rebuked Mandela for insolence during his testimony. The Constitutional Court also overturned the awarding of costs to the rugby union.

Mandela, who stepped down last June, was out of the country and unavailable for comment. The case resonates with racial tension in a country emerging from decades of white rule. Mandela himself had tried to use rugby to unify the nation by cheering on the national Springboks team to their World Cup victory in 1995.

The dispute with SARFU led to the resignation of its long-time chief executive Louis Luyt, and the appointment of Silas Nkanunu. Luyt, who withdrew from the appeal saying he could not get a fair hearing, is now an opposition member of South Africa's parliament.

Olivier Sarramea, the Castres winger, may be forced to withdraw from France's World Cup squad after being injured in a practice match.

"He will have an x-ray on his knee and on Monday we'll make a decision whether to call in a replacement," the team manager Jo Maso said at France's Moliets training camp near Bordeaux.

Sarramea, one of France's most promising newcomers on tour in the South Pacific in June, suffered a knock on the knee during a practice game against a local side in Banyuls-sur-Mer last Friday. France meet Canada in their opening Pool C game in Beziers on 2 October.

Sarramea won his four caps in June, marking his France debut against Romania on his home club ground at Castres with a try in a 62-8 victory.