Israeli rugby team uninvited from South African tournament

The South African rugby board said they were reacting to backlash from 'stakeholders'


Saracens v Tel Aviv Heat, Rugby Union Friendly, StoneX Stadium, Hendon, London - 27/11/2022 ©Matthew Impey / Wired Photos Picture by Matt Impey +44 7789 130347

South Africa Rugby has withdrawn an invitation for Israel's only professional rugby team, the Tel Aviv Heat to participate in a tournament next month.

The Tel Aviv Heat is the first professional Israeli rugby union team and competes in the Eastern Conference of the Rugby Europe Super Cup.

On Thursday, a press release from SA Rugby said the Heat would join teams from Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Spain and six South African sides in the Mzansi Challenge beginning March 24, with the final set for June 17.

But the following day, the body announced that the Israeli team would not be welcome due to backlash from unidentified “stakeholders.”

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said only that the decision had been taken after “we listened to the opinions of important stakeholder groups.”

The South African government has become a vocal critic of Israel, often accusing the Jewish state of practicing “apartheid.”

Pretoria downgraded its embassy in Tel Aviv in 2019 and pulled out its ambassador.

President Isaac Herzog last month slammed as a “blood libel” comparison of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians to South African apartheid.

“It is a dangerous and intensifying terrorism, since the legitimacy of the State of Israel and the justification of its existence is directly related to its ability to protect itself and hence they are trying to undermine this ability,” he said.

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