Rugby Union: SA boss denies racial quotas claim

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The Independent Online
THE HEAD of the South African Rugby Football Union has denied a newspaper report that racial quotas would be used for players in the nation's premier domestic tournament.

The Star, a Johannesburg newspaper, reported on its front page yesterday that the Sarfu president, Silas Nkanunu, said a racial quota system would be extended to the Currie Cup. The system is currently used in youth and provincial rugby leagues.

However, Nkanunu said he was incorrectly quoted. "Such a decision would have to be discussed at length by the Sarfu executive committee and with the provinces before it could take effect," he added.

The African National Congress has said that cricket and rugby teams, which often field all-white sides against international opponents, are not trying hard enough to promote players of other races. On Sunday, the United Cricket Board of South Africa's president, Ray White, reaffirmed the UCB's commitment to the development of non-white players.

Last year, the UCB promised to develop a pool of non-white players as a source for players on provincial squads.

On the domestic rugby stage, the stand-off David Humphreys has won his fitness battle and will captain Ulster in their European Cup semi-final against Stade Francais at Ravenhill on Saturday. The Irish international suffered a shoulder injury in the quarter-final victory over 1996 European champions Toulouse on 11 December.

"Initially I was a bit worried about being fit, but I am fine now and have taken increased contact during the week," said Humphreys. "One of the key factors in our cup run this season has been our team spirit and that will be crucial against Stade Francais."

But while Humphreys is confirmed as a starter, Ulster coach Harry Williams will delay announcing the team until the 11th hour as he awaits fitness reports on a number of players, including centre Mark McCall, who has been out for 18 weeks with a neck problem.

"For technical reasons we are only naming a squad of 22 at this stage but Humphreys will be captain," said Williams. "Stade Francais don't have a weakness and are very strong up front. This is a notch up in competition for us and an even bigger challenge than the Toulouse quarter- final."

The promising London Scottish stand-off Barry Irving has been drafted back into the Scotland Under-21 squad for an extra match in the colts' build-up to their Five Nations' campaign.

The 19-year-old has been added to the squad along with Watsonians centre Marcus Di Rollo and the Northampton hooker Will Jones for an additional fixture against Newcastle Under-21s at Prestonians on 11 January.

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