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SA Rugby statement: Withdrawal of invitation to a team from Israel

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Levan Verdzeuli/Getty Images)

An invitation for Tel Aviv Heat, the Israel-based Super Rugby Cup franchise, to participate in a provincial tournament in South Africa has been withdrawn by SA Rugby. It was announced on Monday that the Super Cup finalists, who were defeated by Black Lion of Georgia in December, would be one of five overseas teams that would join six local sides to contest the Mzanzi Challenge from March 24 onwards.

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However, the news that Tel Aviv had been invited to play in the 11-team tournament wasn’t warmly received and negotiations at SA Rugby level resulted in that invitation being withdrawn on Friday, four days after the plan for the 2023 competition was released. The Israel side will now be replaced by a franchise from Mexico.

A statement read: “SA Rugby announced on Friday that it had withdrawn an invitation to the Tel Aviv Heat to play in the Mzansi Challenge, following representations from multiple stakeholders.
The Israel-based team were scheduled to compete in a competition with four other international teams and six South African provinces from next month.

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Angus Gardner on advantage, scrums and forward passes

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Angus Gardner on advantage, scrums and forward passes

“However, the team was advised on Friday that the invitation had been withdrawn. The Mexican Rhinos have been earmarked to replace them, pending approval by the General Council.

“The Mzansi Challenge kicks off on March 24 with the Diables (Spain), Simbas (Kenya), Rhinos (Mexico), Windhoek Draught Welwitschias (Namibia) and Goshawks (Zimbabwe) joining South African provinces Leopards, Valke, Boland Kavaliers, Eastern Province, Border Bulldogs, and SWD Eagles. An adjusted fixture list will be issued in due course.”

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said: “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.”

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