What do you think of Andy Haden's claims that the Crusaders have a 'race ceiling' on their Super 14 squad?
A shocked Crusaders management have denied claims by All Blacks great Andy Haden that the red and black machine operates a racial selection policy that limits their squad recruitment to three non-European players.
Haden, the outspoken former All Blacks lock, made his claims on Sky TV on Wednesday night when he was part of a panel on the Deaker On Sport programme.
In discussing the "browning of New Zealand rugby" along with fellow former All Blacks Chris Laidlaw and Kevin Putt, Haden claimed the Crusaders - who are seven times Super rugby champions - operated a deliberate policy of restricting the number of Polynesian and Maori players imported into their ranks.
"Once they've recruited three, that's it. That's their ceiling. Three darkies … no more.
"In the Crusaders manual, there it is, it's enshrined in their articles, and they've stuck by that. And they know damn well that that's the case. And it's worked."
The claim left Deaker visibly stunned and seeking clarity from his guest. But Haden appeared unrepentant.
When approached by Radio Sport today Haden didn’t back down: "It's what they've operated on and it's been very successful. I'm not saying I disagree with it, I think you have to get a mix right with all sorts of circumstances, all sorts of teams and some mixes don't work for them."
Haden told Radio Sport he believed the Crusaders policy restricted imports to "three non-locals of the dark variety".
When the claims were put to Crusaders CEO Hamish Riach today, he said they were utterly untrue.
He told Radio Sport he couldn't believe Haden had even raised something so divisive and so wrong.
He challenged Haden to reveal his source and back up his claims.
Riach said there was no basis to Haden's claims because "the whole damn thing is a fiction".
"It's completely untrue. I don't know what he is referring to. It's utterly untrue. It makes no sense to me," Riach told Radio Sport.
"Our mission statement doesn’t say that. It's an extraordinary claim that isn’t based on any fact. I hope the story stops here with this denial."
A look at the current Crusaders squad which reached the semifinals last week shows they have Pacific Islanders Kahn Fotuali’i, Robert Fruen and Ti’i Paulo in their squad along with Tu Umaga-Marshall in their wider training group.
They also have Maori players Tim Bateman, Thomas Waldrom, Kade Poki, Jonathan Poff, Zac Guildford and Isaac Ross in their ranks.
One of their assistant coaches is New Zealand Maori assistant coach Daryl Gibson.
The 2007 season review showed they imported more than three players of non-European decent.
The Crusaders are currently trying to entice Sonny Bill Williams into their ranks as he weighs up bringing his rugby game to New Zealand.
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