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South Africa Rugby drops invitation to Israeli team

The Tel Aviv Heat was set to play in the Mzansi Challenge.

Tel Aviv Heat rugby team. Source: Twitter.
Tel Aviv Heat rugby team. Source: Twitter.

South Africa Rugby has withdrawn an invitation for the Tel Aviv Heat to participate in a tournament slated to begin next month.

On Thursday, a press release from SA Rugby said the Heat would join teams from Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Spain and six South African sides in the Mzansi Challenge beginning March 24, with the final set for June 17.

The following day, the body announced that the Israeli team would not be welcome due to backlash from unidentified “stakeholders.”

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said only that the decision had been taken after “we listened to the opinions of important stakeholder groups.”

The South African government has become a vocal critic of Israel, often accusing the Jewish state of practicing “apartheid.”

Pretoria downgraded its embassy in Tel Aviv in 2019 and pulled out its ambassador.

President Isaac Herzog last month slammed as a “blood libel” comparison of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians to South African apartheid.

“It is a dangerous and intensifying terrorism, since the legitimacy of the State of Israel and the justification of its existence is directly related to its ability to protect itself and hence they are trying to undermine this ability,” he said.

The Tel Aviv Heat is the first professional Israeli rugby union team. It competes in the Eastern Conference of the Rugby Europe Super Cup.

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