'Baby Black' teammate joked about rape online

A member of the Junior All Blacks has been accused of rape during a South Africa visit. Photo / Thinkstock
A member of the Junior All Blacks has been accused of rape during a South Africa visit. Photo / Thinkstock

A member of the New Zealand under 20 rugby squad joked about a rapist in a Facebook post as a teammate was being investigated for rape by South African police.

Baby Blacks hooker Nathan Harris today outed himself as the player accused of raping a 22-year-old woman at a Cape Town hotel on the night of his side's junior world championship defeat to hosts South Africa last Friday.

New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew would not comment on today's developments but said earlier this week the Baby Blacks squad had been reminded of team protocols only hours before the alleged rape.

Tew said players had been drinking on Friday night but didn't believe they were grossly intoxicated.

However squad members made comments on social networking sites about "drowning sorrows" after their loss to South Africa.

And yesterday one joked on Facebook that "they can't find the rapist cause he is in Australia".

The NZRU did not comment tonight but the comment was removed after APNZ asked questions about it.

Earlier, Harris, a 20-year-old from Te Puke, said in a statement he had gone public to save his team-mates from suspicion.

He apologised for breaking team rules by allowing a woman into his room but said "very strongly" that he was innocent of the rape allegation.

Harris said he had let down his family and teammates and asked for privacy during a "very stressful and painful time".

"I am proud to have had this amazing opportunity to represent my country playing rugby and I know that I let the team down and I let my family down.

"For that I am truly sorry and I want to apologise to my team mates, team management and to all the parents and friends who supported our team, but especially to my family for the distress this has caused them all.

"I have learnt a lot and now I am hoping for a good outcome so I can get on with my life."

All Blacks mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka said the pressure increased "10-fold" on players picked for New Zealand.

"There are some people that can cope, others not so well. There's a bunch of pressure from a bunch of environments ... there's no doubt that it's a pressure cooker."

He said management would have taken steps to prepare the team for what was expected of them while overseas but due to their youth some may have erred on the wrong side of caution.

"Most teams have rules and codes around it but sometimes people transgress."

Harris' family in Te Puke last night declined to comment but a neighbour said she would be proud to have him as a grandson.

She described Harris as "a lovely young man" who was "mature", "quite reserved" and "well behaved".

"If he does anything he tries to do it well and he has spent many, many hours, weeks, years trying to build up his fitness to become where he is today: an aspiring All Black representing our country," she said.

"That's not him (a partier) and he doesn't have people over with loud parties. I know that he does his best. And what more can you ask from a young person?"

- APNZ

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