An Israeli rugby coach has submitted a formal notification of offences to the South African Rugby Union (SARU) following the exclusion of the Tel Aviv Heat rugby team from the Mzansi Challenge competition in South Africa next month.
The notification was made by Joshua Schewitz, Head Coach at Rishon LeZion Owls Rugby Club. Schewitz previously lived in South Africa and played rugby at Wits University and Pirates Rugby Club in Johannesburg.
UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) and the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) have assisted with the preparation of the notification, which lays out a series of contraventions of SARU’s Constitution and Regulations.
On 3 February 2023 the SARU Executive Council withdrew an invitation to the Tel Aviv Heat rugby team. Mark Alexander, President of the Executive Council, was quoted in SARU’s press release as stating: “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, notwithstanding the fact that Israel is a full member of World Rugby and the IOC”.
The participation of Tel Aviv Heat in the Mzansi Challenge had been planned for several months and the invitation had been confirmed by the Executive Council on two previous occasions, before it was suddenly withdrawn on 3 February without prior notice.
Mr Schewitz observed in the notification, “It appears that the decision to exclude the Tel Aviv Heat team was taken on political grounds, pandering to the bigotry of unidentified ‘stakeholder groups’.”
“The South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) recently submitted their own Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to SARU to confirm which stakeholders were consulted, fearing undue political interference in local sporting fixtures” states Benji Shulman, Director of Public Policy at the SAZF.
The notification of offences as submitted by Schewitz identifies a number of clauses of SARU’s own Constitution and Disciplinary Regulations that were breached by its Executive Council. For example, the objects specified in the Constitution include:
pursuing policies and programmes….aimed at redressing imbalances of the past and creating a genuinely non-racial, non-sexist, non-political and democratic dispensation for rugby in South Africa;
promoting inclusivity and diversity within the game;
encouraging rugby … for all persons, irrespective of race, colour, creed or gender, and to eliminate any discrimination and inequality amongst players and officials alike.