Rugby Union: Ireland's tour of S Africa still on hold

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THE FATE of Ireland's forthcoming tour of South Africa remained unclear yesterday despite the resignation of Louis Luyt, the president of the South African Rugby Football Union.

"Our position remains unchanged," said Mvuso Mbebe, the chief executive of the National Sports Council, referring to the controlling sports body's view that all international rugby tours of the country are suspended pending further notice.

"We had planned to contact the Irish Rugby Union today, but now will only do so after we have discussions with the [rugby union] provinces," Mbebe added.

Following Luyt's resignation, the sports minister, Steve Tshwete said all tours to South Africa would go ahead. But the NSC has insisted this will happen only once the entire Sarfu executive committee steps down.

The seven remaining members of the committee - who are all white - could resign en masse today following allegations of nepotism and racism. Four other black members resigned last week in protest at Luyt. A spokesman for Sarfu said that the remaining seven members "may all resign and be re-elected.... It would convince the NSC that everything is being done democratically."

Luyt made his resignation official yesterday by faxing a letter to the union's headquarters. This was greeted by Mbebe as "a step in the right direction''.

The toll of professional rugby union's punishing season will show this morning when England's coach, Clive Woodward, names his southern hemisphere tour squad at Twickenham.

The list of high-profile absentees from the 38-man squad for the tour to New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, is likely to include the England captain, Lawrence Dallaglio, his Lions counterpart, Martin Johnson, the Bath centres, Jeremy Guscott and Phil de Glanville, plus Mike Catt, David Rees, Tony Underwood, Richard Hill and Tim Rodber. Woodward has promised that only players who are "100 per cent mentally and physically fit" should travel.

Several uncapped players, should have a chance to prove themselves. England face Australia on 6 June, New Zealand on 20 and 27 June and should play South Africa on 4 July.