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Waratahs apologise after Hurricanes star Du'Plessis Kirifi alleges racial abuse

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

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The Waratahs have apologised after Hurricanes star Du’Plessis Kirifi alleged that he was racially abused by a fan in Sydney on Saturday.

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Kirifi took to Instagram on Monday to apologise after he was photographed pulling the finger to the Leichardt Oval crowd as his side beat the Waratahs 22-18.

The 25-year-old flanker, who is of Samoan descent, explained in a social media post that his middle-fingered salute was in response to comments made about his mother and his race.

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“I love the arena, I love to compete alongside my teammates and I love when the crowds are hyped and throw chat from the stands,” Kirifi wrote.

“But there’s a line and just because you’re in the crowd doesn’t give you the right to talk about my mother or my race.

“Abuse from the sideline is part of our job, and it’s a part I personally love – however this doesn’t justify racial slurs or comments about my family.

“I passionately wear my heart on my sleeve but I’m no where near perfect. I admire my teammates who are mature enough to be non-reactive and hopefully the next time I’m in this position I show the same resolve.

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“As athletes we’re in the public eye so I apologise to anyone disappointed by my actions, especially those with kids who look up to us as professionals. If I had my time again I’d definitely act in a different way.”

Hurricanes chief executive Avan Lee has since spoken to Kirifi about the incident, and revealed that his Waratahs counterpart, Paul Doorn, has apologised on behalf of the Super Rugby Pacific franchise.

“He apologised on behalf of the club, for the situation. It was a short conversation, but we agreed to keep talking and work our way through that,” Lee said.

“We just don’t condone racism full-stop and that is what Paul and I spoke about.

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“We need to make sure we are consistent in our messaging, which isn’t difficult when you have got a situation like this, so we are very comfortable with where this has got to.”

Lee added that has also spoken with New Zealand Rugby about the situation, and said the national governing body was satisfied with the explanation provided by Kirifi about his actions.

The Hurricanes boss was also fully understanding of Kirifi’s response to the situation and threw his support behind the loose forward.

“Racist comments, or comments about your mother, are not pleasant for a young man to deal with – or any person to deal with,” Lee said.

“He regrets what he did, but I can totally understand why he did it – in the heat of the moment, after allegedly hearing that kind of language. I can accept why he made a mistake. I can understand why it happened.”

In a statement the Waratahs condemned the alleged abuse and highlighted the importance of inclusiveness in rugby.

“The NSW Waratahs are disappointed to be recently made aware of an allegation of racial abuse from the crowd at Leichhardt Oval towards Hurricanes player Du’Plessis Kirifi on Saturday night,” the statement read.

“There is no place for racism in society and this behaviour will not be tolerated.

“The NSW Waratahs celebrate the multicultural diversity of our team and are proud to embrace the inclusiveness of all cultures and races in rugby.”

Saturday’s victory saw the Hurricanes leapfrog the Waratahs on the Super Rugby Pacific table into fifth place, with the two teams separated only by points difference.

In doing so, the Hurricanes have kept their hopes of a home quarter-final alive, as they trail the fourth-placed Chiefs by three competition points ahead of this weekend’s clash against the Melbourne Rebels in Wellington.

The Waratahs, meanwhile, will also look to stay in the hunt for a top four finish when they visit Dunedin to play the Highlanders on Sunday.

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