Whole Baby Blacks team 'tainted' by rape claim
BRONWYN TORRIE, IAN STEWARD, MICHAEL DALY
The player at the centre of the Baby Blacks rape scandal could be flown back to South Africa for further police questioning, as those close to the team ask why a cloud of suspicion must hang over all 28 players.
One member of the New Zealand under-20 rugby team voluntarily provided Cape Town police with a blood sample, fingerprints and a statement after a woman he was with made a rape allegation.
New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) chief executive Steve Tew said it would be ''inappropriate'' to identify the player.
''The negative side of that is that the whole team is under some suspicion, but I'm, sure from my experience in those team environments they would prefer to share that responsibility than hang him out to dry.''
His view was not shared by at least one person close to the team, who called on the player at the centre of the allegations to name himself to take suspicion off the others.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the source said the team had a no-alcohol policy but the players went out to celebrate on the night of the final.
"They were told that under no circumstances was anyone able to come back to the hotel.''
The source said the team was a tight unit but news of the allegations even came as a surprise to some team members.
"He needs to put his hand up and be held accountable.''
"It taints the whole team.''
The source said the fact that original reports implicated four players cast the net of suspicion even wider.
Tew said there was a possibility that the player could return to South Africa to help with investigations.
The team co-operated with South African police and flew back to New Zealand as scheduled after they lost the junior world championship final to South Africa on the weekend.
Tew said the player had been drinking, but not excessively, and had broken the 'no women on floor' policy that applied to all national rugby teams, including the All Blacks.
Suspicion now loomed over the squad of 28, as the union refused to name the player.
Tew described the situation as "disappointing".
"But let's be clear, we are still dealing with an allegation, no charges have been laid, no one's been detained, no one's even been to a police station, but the matter is serious. "Obviously if it goes further that's not helpful, but it is now what it is and we'll try and deal with it as professionally as we can.''
He would not go into details about what he knew about the night.
"It is clear that a player took a young woman to his room and that is against team protocol and that is what is now being investigated and I can't tell you more than that.
"He's given us his version of events, the police are trying to piece together what might have happened, they've got CCTV footage, they've got witness statements, they're obviously talking to the young women involved and her family as well, so they're the experts and we'll leave them to do their job.''
Tew said the team had 24 hour security, but this could not prevent players from making poor decisions.
"Well they get an awful lot of advice and as late as last thing in the changing sheds on Saturday they were reminded of their responsibilities representing this country and their families and also the dangers of being in a foreign country where clearly you put yourself at risk if you take poor decisions. It's obvious this young man has made a poor decision and he is now dealing with it.''
Tew did not rule out disciplinary action against the player for breaking the "no woman on floor" policy.
"These are young guys who are not full time contracted players either so again we have to work our way through what is feasible and what is sensible. We will certainly have a very thorough review of this campaign as we would of anyway and now clearly there is a sharper focus on some of the stuff in the last 24 hours.''
- © Fairfax NZ News
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