A NEW Zealand Maori tour to South Africa, on the backburner last year, is back on the table.
Rugby News understands the Maori will play two matches in the republic in November.
The post-Rugby World Cup sojourn will be against a shadow Springboks side at venues in Soweto, Cape Town or Pretoria, and will be a celebration of the Bulls ‘blood brothers’ Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield. The former is heading to French club Toulon, while the occasional Springboks captain and lineout ace is set to retire.
New Zealand Maori coach Jamie Joseph says the proposed tour is news to him. He was not expecting anything to be on the schedule in 2011 due to the already congested calendar.
“I don’t know anything about it. That would be good if it happened, but I’m not sure about games in November. It seems a bit far-fetched,” he says. “My comment last year was that it would be good to have (games in 2011).”
But though there is little on the international calendar in November, he admits there would be several questions surrounding the release of players who will be on their annual leave then. Others such as Luke McAlister and Stephen Brett may already be into overseas contracts. How many of the Maori-eligible All Blacks from the World Cup squad would be able to turn out?
Joseph himself would need leave from the early stages of the Highlanders’ 2012 preparations.
There were protracted discussions last season for a New Zealand Maori match in South Africa, against the Springboks, which would have been the first time the iconic side had been to the republic since the 1994 M-Net series under the coaching of Chas Ferris. That never got off the ground, partly due to finance, but also the then SARU policy of not having the Boks play any side selected on race, which is the case with New Zealand Maori.
That has since been repealed, opening the door for South Africa to host the Maori, who made such a stirring impression on their three-match internal tour for last year’s centenary season, beating England, Ireland and a strong New Zealand Barbarians combination.
The South African Rugby Union also made a formal apology last year to the NZRU and Maori rugby for the 1928, 1949 and 1960 All Blacks tours to South Africa, in which Maori were not welcome.« Back to Articles
This weekend throws up another set of games which could go either way.
Which player was unlucky not to make the Wallabies’ preliminary squad for the British and Irish Lions series?