Crusaders deny South Africa poaching claims

BY RICHARD KNOWLER IN JOHANNESBURG
Last updated 05:00 22/05/2010

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Chief executive Hamish Riach has hotly denied allegations the Crusaders are attempting to poach South Africa's rising rugby stars.

A report in a South African newspaper yesterday alleged the Crusaders planned to grab the country's rising talent and that the South African Rugby Union (SARU) had fired off a letter to the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) to demand it intervene.

But last night Riach denied there was anything sinister about the Crusaders' involvement in a private sporting academy in Centurion, near Pretoria.

"This is wrong, they have completely got the wrong end of the stick. To say we are intending to pinch their players is completely untrue."

Instead, Riach stated, the Crusaders were entered into a commercial licensing agreement with the academy which also involves sports such as golf, swimming and football.

Riach acknowledged that when the Crusaders toured the republic in the future some members of the team would visit the setup. The franchise would benefit financially from the licensing agreement.

Yesterday's report stated the academy had been sending a letter to schools, detailing information about a "nationwide talent identification programme at an all-expenses paid training camp" for 60 under-16 players in July.

The report added that the letter from the SARU to the NZRU stated: "What we find frankly horrifying is the systematic and widespread targeting of young players in SA.

"We would therefore appreciate if you could intervene on our behalf with the Crusaders by passing on our concerns and asking them to cancel this expedition."

Riach said he was unaware of that correspondence and has heard nothing from the NZRU or the SARU.

"The vast majority of players that attend the academy will be from South Africa.

"It's not about us pinching any of their players to play for the Crusaders at all," he said.

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