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Rugby Board Split on Contacts with Guerrilla Organization

November 11, 1988

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) _ The South African Rugby Board said Friday it would avoid contact with the outlawed African National Congress, rebuffing efforts by the board president to end South Africa’s world isolation in the sport.

The president of the all-white board, Danie Craven, was criticized for traveling to Zimbabwe last month for meetings with black African sports officials, including members of the ANC.

Craven was pursuing plans to form a new rugby union with South American and other African countries. He announced Friday that those duties had been passed to another executive member, Johan Claasen.

Craven said his efforts to unite the board with the anti-apartheid South African Rugby Union would be handled by vice-president Fritz Eloff, who had opposed the ANC contacts.

The board or Craven did not comment on the meaning of the two decisions, reached during a closed meeting Thursday and announced Friday. But Craven made it clear he disagreed with the decision on ANC contacts.

He told Eloff on Friday, ″I warn you that the only road to Africa is through the ANC. No matter what you do, you will have to deal with that.″

The South Africa government regards the ANC, the main black guerrilla group fighting to end apartheid, as a terrorist organization.

Government officials had demanded that the rugby board explain its stand on Craven’s talks, threatening an end of government aid to the sport most cherished by the politically dominant Afrikaners.

Shortly after Craven’s meeting, Eloff had discussed with the International Rugby Board a possible 1989 world team visit to celebrate South Africa’s 100th anniversary of the game.

Eloff said ANC officials had written to the international board, urging them not to send a team to South Africa. Eloff said the letter showed it was naive to believe that negotiating with the ANC would help South African rugby.

Most international sports organizations have barred South Africans from competition to protest the government’s policies of apartheid, under which the black majority has no vote in national affairs.

Last year, the International Rugby Board approved a world team visit to South Africa, but the invited teams or their countries refused participation.

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