New Zealand Rugby and the Crusaders have launched an investigation into two separate incidents that took place in Cape Town over the last week.
Crusaders players, including All Blacks winger George Bridge, were accused of directing homophobic slurs and gestures at patrons at a McDonalds in Long Street, which is part of the entertainment district, following their draw against the Stormers.
The three players have refuted allegations of homophobia, while coach Scott Robertson, who identified Bridge as one of the players involved, has played the incident down as a ‘selfie gone wrong’.
A Cape Town man, who identified himself as a friend of the accusers, told New Zealand media that he had asked one of the players why he was filming his friend with his mobile phone.
‘He then said, “Well, we look funny”, the man, who gave his name as Jeremy told Radio New Zealand. ‘I am speaking for the queer community of South Africa and Cape Town in voicing that we are tired of these experiences.’
In a separate incident, the team’s flyhalf Richie Mo’unga was alleged to have spat beer at people at a nightspot earlier in the week.
Following reports of the restaurant incident, a woman came forward to accuse Mo’unga of spitting beer on her before inappropriately touching her.
She told Radio New Zealand that Mo’unga had apologised to her the next day when she contacted him via Instagram.
‘I’m really sorry for that. I’m not aware that I did that. Obviously was intoxicated and should’ve gone home long before that stage. I’m sorry to you and your friends and want to assure you I don’t condone that behaviour and am sorry about that,’ Mo’unga’s message read.
NZR chief rugby officer, Nigel Cass, confirmed that enquiries started as soon as staff were alerted by Crusaders management.
‘The allegations that have been made about players, in two different incidences, are very serious. These allegations are about abuse, inappropriate and offensive behavior, and we do not tolerate this.
‘We have very strong values of respect, inclusion and tolerance in rugby – there is no place for the type of behaviour that has been described.
‘At the same time, the players are refuting the details of the claims made. Because the nature of these allegations is serious, it is important that we carefully look at these claims without prejudice or assumptions.’
Crusaders CEO Colin Mansbridge said he had had initial discussions with the players and team management.
‘The players are distraught about the accusations as they continue to refute the alleged version of events.
‘Clearly the right thing to do is to formalise the investigation into these matters, which would allow both sides to be heard.’
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