Rugby Union: Luyt decides to stay on: Minister acts to prevent resignation

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LOUIS LUYT did not even have to wait until Friday's scheduled South African Rugby Football Union executive to be begged to rescind his resignation as Sarfu president. Instead the South African government, no less, intervened and yesterday, the drama having gone on for all of 24 hours, the Machiavellian doctor announced that he had changed his mind.

The result is to leave Luyt still more strongly placed than he was before he demanded the sacking of the manager and coach who had taken the Springboks to New Zealand, Jannie Engelbrecht and Ian McIntosh. Engelbrecht and Luyt appear to have kissed and made up but McIntosh's tenure remains extremely precarious, even though the World Cup is only nine months hence.

It took a lengthy telephone call from Steve Tshwete, South Africa's rugby-loving minister of sport, to mollify Luyt, though the chances were that the Sarfu executive, which met in emergency session in Cape Town yesterday, would also have made the attempt.

'I had a long discussion with Mr Tshwete and I have made a commitment to him to stay on during a difficult period with the World Cup just around the corner,' Luyt said. He had also (temporarily) resigned his place on the International Rugby Board and as chairman of the committee organising the World Cup.

Luyt said that he would 'forgive but never forget' the reasons for his resignation. His falling-out with Engelbrecht did not endear him to a public who remember fondly the manager's distinction when he was a Springbok wing in the Sixties, and in any case Engelbrecht was widely admired for his conduct in New Zealand, where South Africa lost 2-0.

'I shouldn't have reacted the way I did, but that's the way I am,' Luyt said in a rare show of contrition. 'I am 100 per cent committed to South African rugby and I want to serve the game the best way I can.' His problem is that an awful lot of South Africans beyond his Transvaal power-base believe he is 100 per cent committed to Louis Luyt.

Indeed since the resignation there have been dark mutterings that Luyt, a rags-to-riches millionaire who is anything but an Afrikaner establishment figure, has been the victim of a Broederbond plot, involving Engelbrecht, the former chairman of selectors Hannes Marais and the former Springbok manager Johan Claassens, to get him out.