Rugby Union: Pienaar accused in Luyt's outburst

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LOUIS LUYT was never likely to go quietly. Springbok rugby's disgraced ex-president bade a predictably undignified farewell yesterday by branding South Africa's white minority as "spineless" and attempting to tarnish the reputation of Francois Pienaar, the heroic captain of the 1995 World Cup winners.

Luyt relinquished his iron grip on the South African Rugby Football Union last week following a concerted government- backed campaign by the National Sports Council, which accused him of allowing racism, corruption and nepotism to flourish unchecked in the Springbok hierarchy. As a result, the NSC yesterday rescinded its call for a renewed international boycott and gave its blessing to a summer Test programme featuring visits from Ireland, Wales, England, Australia and New Zealand.

However, Luyt gatecrashed the peace declaration by lambasting former colleagues in the highest echelons of South African rugby. "White people no longer believe they can protect what is important to them," he said in an interview with Volksblad, an Afrikaans newspaper. "They are spineless. There is no marrow left in their bones."

He went on to accuse Pienaar, who inspired Saracens to victory in last Saturday's Tetley's Bitter Cup final, of accepting more than pounds 180,000 to talk his Test colleagues out of joining Kerry Packer's proposed rebel circus almost three years ago - a deal Luyt alleged was kept secret from the Springbok squad.

Pienaar, already deeply offended by Luyt's earlier description of him as a "Judas", reacted with an outburst of righteous anger. "He must stop his accusations and if he continues to call me a `Judas', he has a big problem," he said.

South African rugby was given a reminder yesterday that some things are more important than political intrigue and public back-biting, when the international Dick Muir retired. The 33-year-old Western Province centre temporarily lost feeling in an arm and leg after a collision last month and doctors warned that he risked paralysis by continuing to play.