Sharks say Beast will stay

2010-01-13 00:00

SPRINGBOK prop forward Beast Mtawarira will be staying and playing his rugby in Durban this year.

This assurance came from Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl yesterday and follows reports that the Zimbabwean loosehead could be deported from South Africa because he is playing in this country as a foreigner.

“We have complied with all the necessary requirements,” Van Zyl said. “He is with us on a skills’ work permit and we have all the necessary paperwork.”

Van Zyl said that Makhenkesi Stofile’s Sports Ministry is in conflict with SA Rugby over Mtawarira.

“But this is certainly not a Sharks matter or our problem,” he added.

Butana Komphela, the combative chairman of the National Assembly sports committee, was again in the headlines yesterday when he claimed that the SA Rugby Union would be punished for fielding Mtawarira in the Springbok team last year and that he plans to deport the powerful 24-year-old Zimbabwean.

“The government is going to punish rugby. We are going to charge SA Rugby for fielding a foreign national without proper requirements. We have inquired as to why the Beast is still playing for the Springboks if he is a foreign national in contravention of the laws.”

But Komphela then apparently contradicted himself over the deportation threat when he added that the Beast could continue playing for the Sharks.

“We have no problem with him playing for the Sharks. They keep on renewing his contract, but this doesn’t mean he has acquired citizenship.”

The thorny question of Mtawarira’s availability for the Boks was raised again when the Pakistan spinner Imran Tahir was withdrawn from the South African cricket squad ahead of this week’s fourth and final Test at the Wanderers.

Komphela claimed that Mtawarira should have been withdrawn from the Boks’ overseas tour by SA Rugby late last year. Instead the prop played in two Tests overseas and Komphela said they will now be punished.

Saru president Regan Hoskins yesterday dismissed the allegation that he had broken the law and added that Stofile had cleared Mtawarira to play.

Hoskins said he will again meet with the Sports Ministry to clarify the Beast’s position with the Springboks and he remains positive the problem can be resolved.

“We are going to try and sway the government to look at this as a special case, which is not unprecedented in other countries,” Hoskins told reporters.

“The Beast has been here since just out of school and has given his life to rugby. I am going to make sure I cover every nook and cranny to make sure we comply with the immigration laws of South Africa.”

A senior South African rugby official said yesterday that Stofile and his Sports Ministry officials are at loggerheads with SA Rugby because of the perceived slow rate of transformation at Springbok and Super 14 level and because they feel “the rugby bosses have not done enough to back the Eastern Cape franchise”.

“The fact that Hoskins beat off the challenge of Makhenkesi Stofile’s brother Mike in the race for the Saru presidency last year could well be another reason why rugby has been frequently targeted by the Sports Ministry,” he added.

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