SA Rugby spokesperson said the Springbok Sevens team were not holding a camp with the Israeli side. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)
SA Rugby spokesperson said the Springbok Sevens team were not holding a camp with the Israeli side. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Storm over Israeli Sevens rugby team training camp

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Dec 1, 2020

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Cape Town - The Israeli Sevens rugby team is holding a training camp at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport, but it has been confirmed they will not have any contact with the Springbok Sevens team (Blitzbokke), after reports suggesting that would happen got the ANC Youth League all fired up over ties with Israel.

Earlier, the ANCYL sent out a statement saying it was disturbed by a reported upcoming rugby camp involving the Blitzbokke and Israel, saying it would be an unacceptable misuse of “our sporting team”.

Their statement followed reports that the Israeli Sevens team would arrive at the academy in mid-December to train with the Blitzbokke.

According to the reports, the camp was to begin in Israel, where rugby legend Frankie Horne together with Philip Snyman, the former Blitzbok captain and multiple world championship-winner, would spend a week with the players and coaching staff at the Wingate Institute in Netanya, the home of Rugby Israel.

The reports indicated that the Israeli team would then travel to Stellenbosch for a week-long camp with the Blitzbokke.

However, an SA Rugby spokesperson said the Springbok Sevens team were not holding a camp with the Israeli side, saying the reports indicating such a camp would take place were incorrect.

The spokesperson said the Israeli Sevens team had arranged to hold a training camp at the academy, which hosted various international teams in variety of sporting codes as part of its core business.

“That arrangement had nothing to do with the Springbok Sevens squad. The fact that SAS (academy) is also the base of the Springbok Sevens is purely coincidental,” the spokesperson said.

ANCYL provincial chairperson Khalid Sayed said in the statement it would be wrong for the Blitzbokke to host a team from a country with which South Africa had downgraded diplomatic relationships because of Israel’s alleged violation of international law and Palestinians’ human rights.

Sayed said such an engagement would also be detrimental to South Africans, because Israel was investing heavily in “growing” a group of Israeli apartheid supporters among a sector of South African society that was “struggling with transformation”.

“Israeli rugby was literally born out of apartheid SA. Apartheid SA had strong relations with Israel during the 1980s – in addition to supplying military weapons to the apartheid SA regime, Israel also assisted apartheid SA in other ways, and vice versa.

“It is therefore our duty as South Africa to treat Israel the way we wanted other nations to treat apartheid South Africa, and we will not only be raising our concerns with the relevant bodies including the minister of Sport, but if needs be we will also, together with the peoples of the Western Cape, be embarking on strategic protest actions,” he said.

DA national spokesperson on Sport Tsepo Mhlongo said the ANC did not understand the purpose of sport.

“It (ANC) must not adopt sports as a political issue. Sports must be played irrespective of one’s political belief, background or ideology,” Mhlongo said.

The executive director of the SA Zionist Federation (Cape Council), Chaya Singer rejected the attempts by the provincial ANCYL to “politicise” the Israeli Sevens rugby team’s training camp.

“As we all know, and have all experienced in South Africa, sport is a universal good that brings people together, irrespective of diverse cultures and backgrounds,” Singer said.

Singer urged the provincial ANCYL to recognise “the times we are in” by supporting, and not rejecting, initiatives that promoted positive person-to-person relations between Israel and South Africa.

Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesperson Clayson Monyela referred the Cape Argus to the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, which had not responded to questions at the time of publication.

Cape Argus

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