Rugby Union: Springboks fear boycott over Luyt

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The Independent Online
VERNON PUGH and the International Rugby Board may consider England's Premiership clubs to be the root of any evil to be found in the world game, but the forces propelling South Africa towards another debilitating period of isolation make the political ructions at Twickenham look like a church fete. Today, the leading Springbok Test players were meeting with lawyers to prepare the ground for legal action in the event of a cancellation of this summer's tour programme.

The country's National Sports Council has given Louis Luyt, the self- styled Mr Big of Springbok rugby, until the end of today to resign as president of the South African Rugby Football Union and take his entire 13-man executive with him. The Sarfu hierarchy, due to meet in Johannesburg, was expected to stand firm in spite of appeals from provincial unions, major sponsors, broadcasters and players, including Chester Williams, the only black member of the Springboks' 1995 World Cup-winning squad.

"If they dig in, we've got trouble on our hands," said one Sarfu insider yesterday. "The NSC will not be content with asking unions around the world to cancel their summer tours. They will also go straight to government level and say they cannot guarantee the safety of rugby tourists. A boycott would almost certainly mean the Springbok players taking court action for loss of earnings. After all, their livelihood is at stake."

England, Ireland, Wales, Australia and New Zealand are all scheduled to play in South Africa over the next four months. "With the government behind the NSC, I believe they could bring about a boycott," said Keith Parkinson, president of the powerful Natal province. "I don't even want to think about that. This province believes that the solution is for Dr Luyt to stand down, but I doubt very much if it will happen."

Williams, an enduring symbol of the 1995 "Rainbow Nation" Springboks, pleaded with Luyt to quit. "I think the tours should go ahead and the Sarfu president is the one who can save them by resigning," said the Western Province wing.

The NSC has accused Luyt and his colleagues of allowing racism, nepotism and corruption to contaminate their running of the game and were angered by the union's decision to force President Mandela into testifying in court during Sarfu's successful blocking of a move to appoint a legal commission with powers of inquiry.