Rugby Union: Luyt denies firing salvo at World Cup organisers

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The long-standing antagonism between the directors of Rugby World Cup and Louis Luyt, omnipotent president of the South African Rugby Football Union, resurfaced yesterday when Luyt was quoted in South Africa calling on the organisers to resign after the forthcoming tournament.

By a startling coincidence Luyt's comments appeared in a number of newspapers and by an equally startling coincidence he then denied making the attack. This was followed by an emollient statement from Rugby World Cup which basically said that, though ticket pricing had been one of Luyt's alleged complaints, in reality everything was tickety-boo.

Luyt was apparently upset that so few foreigners, especially New Zealanders, would be visiting his country for the World Cup, though Gullinjet, the tournament's official tour operator, insists the world-wide figure of 35,000 is excellent and as there are now no hotel rooms or flights to be had, South Africa's inadequate infrastructure seems to have reached its capacity.

"After this tournament all the RWC directors should resign," Luyt was quoted as saying. "They have not achieved anything except to obstruct a clear view of what is going on. We must start afresh and organise RWC as part of the International Board, with a secretariat appointed by the board and responsible to it."

This welcome suggestion would have had more credibility if Luyt had not then sought to shift the blame for the cost of visiting South Africa on to everyone else bar South Africans, while claiming that more than half- a-million match tickets had just been returned to Sarfu from abroad. "Just as we thought, the tournament has been seriously overpriced. Not nearly as many people are coming from overseas as Rugby World Cup expected."

However, John Hall, the chairman of Gullinjet, said last night the biggest price culprits were to be found in South Africa. "The airline [SAA] has increased its prices so that compared with the rate to South Africa in May of any other year it's up by 10-15 per cent, and some hotels have effectively doubled the price."

Hall said Gullinjet had anticipated taking 1,000 supporters from the British Isles but have ended up with 2,600 bookings, with a further 4,500 travelling with seven other agents and another 4,000 making their own way. Two thousand were going from New Zealand despite the counter-attraction of next year's All Black tour of South Africa.

Meanwhile, Luyt's strictures on the cost of match tickets cut no ice with Rugby World Cup since - as RWC sardonically pointed out last night - the pricing structure had been proposed by Sarfu before being approved by RWC. "We have a most harmonious relationship with Sarfu," Keith Rowlands, RWC director and IB secretary, insisted.

"Both Dr Luyt and I deeply regret any suggestion that the tournament we have all worked so diligently together for should be considered a failure before the first ball has been passed. Both RWC and Sarfu will be judged on 25 June 1995 as to whether the tournament was a success or not."

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