The head coach of the Rishon LeZion Owls rugby club, who previously played rugby in Johannesburg, has submitted a formal complaint to the South African Rugby Union for boycotting the Tel Aviv Heat rugby team.

The South African Zionist Federation and UK Lawyers for Israel helped Joshua Schewitz prepare the complaint, which explains the ways that the South African group violated its constitution when its executive council withdrew an invitation to the Tel Aviv team on Feb. 3.

The Tel Aviv team had prepared to compete in the Mzansi Challenge in South Africa for months, and the South African Rugby Union had twice confirmed the invitation. Israel is a full member of both World Rugby and the International Olympic Committee.

Schewitz called the disinvitation politically motivated and “pandering to the bigotry of unidentified ‘stakeholder groups.’” He added that the South African group’s decision also harms several young South African players who play for the Tel Aviv team, who will be barred from competing.

South African Friends of Israel has sought to understand which stakeholders complained about the Israel team’s involvement.

“Rugby is a game divorced from politics. The players, coaches and supporters love the game due to the nature of the game, which is to play the game hard and then shake hands when it’s finished,” Schewitz stated. “Bringing politics into the game is contrary to rugby ethos.”

The Israel-based NGO International Legal Forum (ILF) sent a letter earlier this month to South Africa Rugby in protest of the decision.

Given the tournament is still weeks away, the letter called on the sporting body to live up to its own values and immediately reverse its decision, re-invite the Heat to the competition and issue an unequivocal statement condemning the discriminatory tactics of the BDS movement.

The ILF said that should its call not be heeded, it reserved the right to pursue all possible legal avenues to remedy the situation.


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