South Africa and NZ unions urged to make amends for historical injustice by The best thing to do is apologise. Former All Black Bill BushSouth Africa says it is prepared to apologise to Maori for their exclusion from All Black rugby tours to the republic and the New Zealand Rugby Union should join them.
But the New Zealand Maori Rugby Board is remaining steadfast in its refusal to say sorry.
In a letter to the Sunday News, South Africa's Minister of Sport and Recreation, the Rev Makhenkesi Arnold Stofile, said an apology to those who were victims of racial discrimination was in order.
"This cannot harm anyone who genuinely accepts that racial prejudice was an injustice then as it still is an injustice now."
Mr Stofile also urged the New Zealand Rugby Union and South African Rugby Union to apologise.
In a statement released yesterday, the NZRU said it was following Mr Stofile's statements "with interest".
But despite the NZRU's close contact with the SARFU, neither union had been advised of the South African or New Zealand Government's positions on the issue of rugby team selections during the apartheid era.
"The NZRU looks forward to confirming this position and will, in due course, discuss the matter further with the South African Rugby Union and with the New Zealand Maori Rugby Board," it said.
New Zealand Maori Rugby board chairman Wayne Peters said the board, which has reached a consensus on the issue the three times it had met to discuss it, would not apologise - despite being approached twice by the NZRU about the possibility.
"The matter is one that I have indicated publicly for some weeks and today I don't have any further view beyond the position that I have already made public," said Mr Peters.
Mr Peters said he had asked for a copy of the letter sent to the Sunday News but was refused so he would not comment on it.
Veteran political activist John Minto said an apology from both the NZRU and Maori rugby board was "inevitable" although he thought there were large factions within the NZRU that would oppose such overtures.
"The real tragedy is the New Zealand Rugby Union and the Government, for that matter, should have been acting on this before," said Mr Minto.
"It's a real shame that our rugby union hasn't shown the maturity to front this one but I think there's a sense that they know they will have to apologise."
Oma Nepia, the son of All Black great George Nepia, said an apology from the game's administrators here was overdue.
"If the NZRU and Maori rugby board don't do anything about it they will be even more embarrassed, but it's up to them."
His father rarely spoke of it but the disappointment that he never got to play against the Springboks in the drawn 1928 series, when he was one of the world's finest players, was something that lingered until he died in 1986.
Former All Black and New Zealand Maori captain Bill Bush applauded the sentiments from Mr Stofile but said they should have come from one of the game's white administrators during the republic's apartheid regime.
He said the Maori rugby board's mandate was to represent what was best for Maori."And at this point the best thing to do is apologise."
- additional reporting by NZPABy James Ihaka Email James