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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Tel Aviv Heat’s withdrawal from Mzansi Challenge promotes the politics of hatred, says Israeli club

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Cape Town — As the fall-out of Tel Aviv Heat’s withdrawal from the Mzansi Challenge continues, the Israeli rugby team says it was not consulted by the South African Rugby Union (SA Rugby) before being booted from the SA competition.

The club, founded in 2021, said in a strongly-worded statement on Monday that it was surprised and disappointed when it learnt of the decision by SA Rugby to withdraw them from the upcoming competition.

They were set to partake in the tournament next month when they were told on Friday that their invitation has been withdrawn.

“We have listened to the opinions of important stakeholder groups and have taken this decision to avoid the likelihood of the competition becoming a source of division,” SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said in a statement on Friday.

Four other international teams plus six SA teams are scheduled to play in the Mzansi Challenge.

“Though the statement issued publicly by SA Rugby indicated they had listened to the opinions of important stakeholder groups, SA Rugby did not consult with the Tel Aviv Heat, the Israel Rugby Union or the Israeli Embassy in South Africa prior to the decision,” Tel Aviv Heat said in a statement.

“Since its founding in 2021, the Tel Aviv Heat’s growth and success on and off the field have been driven by its rewarding and supportive team culture that brings together players, staff and a community of compassionate supporters that bridge multiple cultures, races, nationalities and religions.

“Blocking the participation in the Mzansi Challenge has deprived the Tel Aviv Heat of a strategic opportunity to continue its development as an elite professional rugby team and to build a valuable brand equity in South Africa and other Mzansi Challenge markets, and unjustly punishes and demoralises players, coaches, staff and supporters in the midst of preparing for the competition.”

The club further said while SA Rugby indicated that they wanted to “avoid the likelihood of the competition becoming a source of division”, the decision to block Tel Aviv Heat from participating will only sow further division in South Africa and beyond, by bolstering voices dedicated to vilify, demonise and censor those who do not share their views.

“In the end, SA Rugby’s decision runs contrary to the spirit and core values of rugby, promotes the politics of hatred and retribution over the best interests of sport, and exposes the Tel Aviv Heat and its supporters to being targeted by aggressive, hateful language designed to intimidate, delegitimise and silence,” Tel Aviv Heat said.

Pending approval from SA Rugby’s decision makers, the Mexican Rhinos will replace Tel Aviv Heat in the competition.


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