Rugby Union: S Africa's hard line

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The Independent Online
AS South Africa arrived in France yesterday for their first overseas tour since a 1981 trip to New Zealand was beset by anti-apartheid protests, the Springboks manager, Abie Malan, disclosed that South African rugby officials had rejected a request by France's sports minister, Frederique Bredin, that a black player be included in his all-white team.

'We were informed of this only two hours before our departure, which was way too late,' Malan said. 'Our players are selected according to their ability. They always have been and they always will be. We were, at the least, surprised by the French government's attitude.'

The South African Rugby Football Union general manager, Arrie Oberholzer, concurred with Malan: 'When South African rugby was (racially) unified, we agreed all selections would be merit selections,' he said. 'That is exactly how we selected this team. The last thing we want to do is to fly a player over to France as window dressing. If a player can't make the team on merit he will be a hindrance to everyone, including himself.'

The South Africans' first game is against Bordeaux on Saturday, which Bredin said she will now boycott. They then play nine matches in the rest of the month before travelling to England for five matches. The last visit to France by a South African team was in 1974.