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Tel Aviv Heat take Russians' place in Rugby Europe Super Cup playoffs

By Ian Cameron
Gabriel Ibitoye of Tel-Aviv Heat in action during the Rugby Europe Super Cup 2021 Eastern Conference round 1 match between Black Lion and Tel-Aviv Heat at Avchala Rugby Stadium last October in Tbilisi, Georgia. (Photo by Levan Verdzeuli/Getty Images)

Tel Aviv Heat have been handed a spot in the Rugby Europe Super Cup playoffs as a result of the conflict in Ukraine.

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The Israeli side will take the place of Russian side Enisei STM in the playoffs next month in Portugal.

Tel Aviv Heat played its first real home game in December, which had looked to have ended their Super Cup season. The team were beaten by tournament heavyweights – Georgian Black Lion – in front of a decent crowd at the Shlomo Bituach stadium.

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Le French Rugby Podcast – Episode 19
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Le French Rugby Podcast – Episode 19

Now their season is set to get a new lease of life with news that they will contest the playoffs, albeit as a result of difficult geopolitical circumstances. Both Russia and Belarus’ membership of Rugby Europe and participation in all continental rugby competitions at all age grades has been suspended.

It’s will be a busy period for the Israeli team who have been playing rugby across the globe since last October; with fixtures played in Tbilisi, Moscow, and Penza; and with games planned in the United States. Last week it was announced that they will tour South Africa this month play three matches against ABE Midas Naka Bulle, Northam Rhinos and Loftus 200.

Tel Aviv Heat has a number of South Africans such as Josh Strauss and Nic Groom, among others, playing for them. The team is also coached by a South African, Kevin Musikanth, who led the Ikeys to Varsity Cup glory in 2014.

According to Musikanth: “It’s truly fantastic to be able to be invited by the Blue Bulls Rugby Union to tour and give our talented squad exposure in one of the strongest rugby regions globally. This will be an amazing momentum-builder for our new franchise as we prepare for the upcoming Rugby Europe Super Cup season.

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“We cannot wait to play against top clubs and, of course, the opportunity to play against the Loftus 200 team as a tour finale. We are very grateful for this opportunity from the Blue Bulls Rugby Union.”

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