Rugby Union: Luyt quits but power struggle may continue: Sarfu president resigns

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The Independent Online
LOUIS LUYT'S resignation at the weekend as president of the South African Rugby Football Union is not necessarily the end of the affair. Reports from South Africa yesterday suggest that when the Sarfu executive meets on Friday it may ask him to change his mind.

The reason has less to do with his popularity, or otherwise, than with realpolitik, with the World Cup nine months away. It is a measure of the importance Luyt has assumed in South African rugby since gaining the presidency this year that without him Sarfu will have lost the man who has been negotiating all its financial contracts.

Luyt, used to getting his own way, was taken aback by the hostility which followed a very public row between him and Jannie Engelbrecht, the Springbok team manager. Luyt wanted Engelbrecht and the national coach, Ian McIntosh, sacked after South Africa's recent series defeat in New Zealand. He is thought to have wanted a new set-up with Morne de Plessis as manager, Nelie Smith and Ray Mordt as coaches and Naas Botha as national coaching director.

However, when the executive held an emergency meeting in Cape Town last Wednesday, not only did he not receive the support he anticipated (though he says the members still divide 8-3 in favour of dismissing McIntosh and Engelbrecht) there was also an anti-Luyt demonstration outside the Sarfu offices while the meeting was taking place.

Luyt has also been the target for hate mail, and the pressure on him increased when Marcel Martin, one of the directors of Rugby World Cup Ltd, and Eddie Tonks, chairman of the New Zealand RFU, expressed support for the manager. On the other hand, Luyt and Engelbrecht appeared to have resolved their differences at a meeting on Wednesday.

Luyt remains president of the Transvaal Rugby Union and chairman of Ellis Park, which means he will still host the World Cup final in Johannesburg. But he has resigned from the International Board as well as Sarfu, and is no longer the South African organiser of the World Cup.

Engelbrecht is among the possibilities to succeed Luyt, though he will not be in South Africa when Friday's meeting takes place. He is due in Britain today to inspect hotels the Springboks will use during their autumn tour of Wales and Scotland.