HAMAMATSU, Japan (AP) – The South African rugby union has begun a confidential "internal process", with Springboks blocking Eben Etzebeth on allegations that he physically and racially abused a person in South Africa before the Rugby World Cup. .
SA Rugby issued a statement on the case on Thursday, a day after South Africa's Human Rights Commission announced it would take Etzebeth to an equality court on Friday over the allegations. It is the same day that Etzebeth is due to play for the Springboks in a crucial pool game against Italy at the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Etzebeth denied any racial attack or abuse and SA Rugby did not say he would be removed from the team. Indications are that he will stay in Japan and play against Italy at Shizuoka Stadium.
"Following our discussions with the South African Commission on Human Rights, we have instituted an internal process to address the issue, the details of which remain an employment issue between SA Rugby and the player," SA Rugby said on Thursday.
SA Rugby said earlier that he supported Etzebeth and believed in his story.
No criminal charges have been brought against Etzebeth, but the human rights commission said it was moving forward with a case in the equality court. Equality courts generally function as civil courts in South Africa. They may request financial settlements, but also distribute fines and community services in some cases.
Etzebeth was charged with racially abusing a person during a night out while on vacation in the South African coastal town of Langebaan near Cape Town in late August. He was also charged with assault on the same night. He denied both claims and said he had witnesses who could corroborate his story.
The nightly incidents were reported to have occurred the day before the South African World Cup was announced.
Etzebeth would be in a bar with friends and family when the incidents would have occurred.
Etzebeth said in a statement after allegations arose that it was "completely false and unfounded to claim that I was physically or racially abusing anyone … several witnesses can corroborate this."
SA Rugby promised to cooperate with the authorities and said it would take a hard line if Etzebeth were found guilty. But he also supported Etzebeth shortly after his denials, saying that "we trust our people to act responsibly."
At the time, Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus said he met Etzebeth and believed in his story, and Etzebeth was included in the World Cup squad.
"I was definitely worried when I first heard it," said Erasmus. “If there were any truth, that would be a big problem for us. But after talking to Eben and hearing his side of the story, there is trust between a coach and a player.
"I have to trust him to do some things on the field and win the test matches, and he must trust me to believe when he tells me something."
Etzebeth also met with the human rights commission, HRC, before flying to Japan with the Springboks squad. The allegations were also investigated by criminal prosecutors.
"As good, law-abiding corporate citizens, SA Rugby has given all our cooperation in investigating Eben Etzebeth and will continue to do so," SA Rugby said last month. “The case is in the hands of (prosecutors) and HRC. We trust and believe that they will investigate it thoroughly. When your findings are known, we will stick to what is decided. "
The human rights commission and the equality courts deal with cases of racial discrimination as well as others. The unnamed person accusing Etzebeth filed a complaint with the human rights commission, the commission said.
Etzebeth, 27, who stands 2.03 meters tall, has 81 tests and is one of the most experienced players on the Springboks team. He has previously served as a substitute captain for the Springboks.
He has played both South Africa's World Cup games so far, starting in defeat to current champions New Zealand and coming off the bench in a big win against Namibia on Saturday.
He was named to start the game against Italy on Friday when South Africa must effectively win to remain in contention at the World Cup.
More AP Rugby World Cup: https://www.apnews.com/RugbyWorldCup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Subscribe to daily newsletters
Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.