New Zealand Rugby
NZRU and SARU apologise to Maoris
May 13, 2010
All Blacks scrum-half Sid Going makes a break, New Zealand v British & Irish Lions, Wellington, New Zealand, June 1, 1971
Syd Going was earlier criticised for his touring in 1970 © Getty Images

The New Zealand and South African rugby unions have apologised to Maori players who were excluded from All Blacks teams because of apartheid. New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) acting chairman Mike Eagle and chief executive Steve Tew issued a statement today after weeks of public debate.

"Today, on behalf of the New Zealand Rugby Union, we wish to say sorry first and foremost to those Maori players who were not considered for selection for teams to tour South Africa or to play South Africa," the statement said.

"We apologise to the families of those players and to the wider Maori community who were affected directly or indirectly by the decisions taken to not include Maori players for those teams and tours. It was a period in which the respect of New Zealand Maori rugby was not upheld and that is deeply regretted."

The statement comes nearly a week after South Africa's sport and recreation minster, Reverend Makhenkesi Arnold Stofile, sent a public letter of apology to Maori players who were left out of tours to the republic in 1928, 1949 and 1960.

He also urged the NZRU and SARU follow suit, and praised New Zealand demonstrators who "sacrificed their peace and limb" to protest against the 1981 Springboks tour. The NZRU explained it hadn't apologised earlier because of advice from the New Zealand Maori Rugby Board (NZMRB).

"The NZRU first set out to consider this issue in 2009 as we prepared for the centenary of New Zealand Maori in 2010 and believed it was right to ask for advice from the NZMRB. The NZMRB's advice was that an apology might have the effect of unfairly condemning past Maori administrators and that it was more appropriate to focus on the present and the celebration of the New Zealand Maori centenary year.

"However, we acknowledge the steps taken by the South African Rugby Union (SURA) and by the South African minister for sport and recreation in response to these issues."

Tew and Eagle said the centenary year was an appropriate time to issue an apology as it looks to honour all players who wore the NZ Maori jersey.

"The centenary activity has also prompted rugby to revisit and wrestle with the hurt caused by our sporting contact with South Africa during the years that black and other South Africans were subject to the oppression of apartheid. The issues generated by apartheid and the sporting connections which existed at that time affected our two countries deeply and had an enormous impact over several decades, to the extent that those effects are still being felt today.

"We also acknowledge that throughout the apartheid era some of the decisions were taken with good intentions, which included protecting Maori players from insult and vilification. We acknowledge the complexities of the issues that they faced and today's apology is not intended to be a criticism of those involved at that time."

NZRU and SARU officials discussed the issue at this week's International Rugby Board (IRB) council meeting. SARU president Oregan Hoskins also issued an apology this morning.

"A number of Maori rugby players became innocent victims of the racist ideology of our former government, a policy that oppressed the daily lives of all black South Africans," Hoskins said in a statement. Those policies also denied thousands of talented black sportsmen and women the opportunity to compete for selection for South Africa's national sports teams.

"As the current guardians of the game of rugby union it is therefore appropriate that we take this opportunity to apologise to those Maori players who may have been excluded from selection and to the offence this may have caused to the Maori community. But, even more importantly, this is the opportunity to apologise on behalf of rugby to black South Africans who were denied the opportunity to represent not only their country but also their provinces throughout those long dark years because of the connivance of our predecessors in the systematic suppression of the majority."


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