No racism in Crusaders' South African venture

BY DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 13:22 28/05/2010

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The Crusaders' controversial rugby academy system in South Africa goes out of its way to stress it is about talent rather than race.

With Super Rugby's most successful franchise fighting off claims by All Blacks great Andy Haden of a racial quota system for imported players limited to three Polynesians each year, it's pertinent to look at its policy in the new academy programme it has initiated in South Africa.

Cleary the Crusaders are happy to help the next Bryan Habana as much as they are to assist the next Victor Matfield.

In their mission statement at www.crusadersacademy-sa.com they say their quest is "to provide the opportunity to the most talented, regardless of origin or background".

The academy system itself has drawn criticism in South Africa with fears that the Crusaders are trying to poach talent, something disputed by the Kiwis.

But there can certainly be no racial allegations held against the red and blacks for their new venture in a country noted for racial tension.

The Crusaders have set up a partnership with a South African company that specialises in sporting academies.

They have approached schools to participate in talent identification camps in Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban over the next week with the aim of finding 60 under-16 players to attend an all expenses paid camp in Pretoria from July 5-10.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder is listed to oversee the camp and attendees are being tempted by the opportunity to press for post school ''opportunities in Christchurch'' according to its website.

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