A grassroots rugby team have been accused of making racist remarks about Polynesian rugby players during a local game.
Two formal complaints were laid with the West Coast Rugby Union but no direct action has been taken because the complainants have refused to name the alleged offenders.
During the April 30 game in the rural settlement of Hari Hari, south of Greymouth on the South Island's west coast, Hokitika's Kiwi team had been reduced to 13 players for much of the second half following a fight in which two players were red-carded, but they ultimately went on to beat the South Westland Stags 24-10.
The complaints were laid about the Kiwis.
Kiwi player Dan Tauwhare, red-carded for swearing after teammate Logan Winter was sent off, said the circumstances of the game did not stand out as unusual at the time.
"To me it was just another game. There was a decent sized fight in there ... "
He said he had seen both letters alleging "there was racism in the game, and that a lot of our line calls were racially motivated".
One of the letters noted "a lot of racial abuse" directed toward four Polynesian players on the South Westland side.
"If it wasn't such a serious accusation, it would be quite laughable," Mr Tauwhare said.
He was worried the discussion about it would end up misrepresenting Kiwi in a one-sided way.
Kiwi had a number of Maori members and was well known for its profile of people living in the Hokitika community and had invariably attracted attention because of it, he said.
"We're just full of horries -- we'd have two to one."
Kiwi player Pete Te Rakau said he had "heard whispers of the story" of one complainant unhappy at the response from the rugby union, but he believed a lot of what was being said was "pretty unfounded".
The game was "very, very physical".
"All of their players shook hands after the game -- no one said anything."
Kiwi had often been the subject of taunts in the past and other teams had their own history, Mr Te Rakau said.
"Me or my club do not in anyway condone this -- no matter what has been said to us in the past."
West Coast Rugby Union chief executive Mike Connors confirmed that complaints had been received but not actioned yet.
"We received two letters, which were handed to the chairman of our judicial committee (Colin Smith)," Mr Connors said.
"He advised us he could not take action on it because the people who wrote the letters refused to name any individuals."
At this point the union could not do anything directly under its judicial process.
"All we're hearing is hearsay -- you can't convict anyone on hearsay, so if people want to write letters about an event they're not happy with, without putting people's names, there's not a lot we can do."
Mr Connors said the issue would be discussed at the next board meeting on Monday night.
Meantime, the union was notifying teams of "what we expect" and referees were being told to use red cards at the hint of any trouble.
Referees were also to write an official report of any incident and players nabbed for racial abuse would be hauled before the union's judicial committee, Mr Connors said.
South Westland coach Terry McBride, a member of the rugby union management committee, declined to comment fully today.
"It's probably not finished yet ... I just can't talk at the moment."
Mr McBride confirmed he had heard the rumours about one of the complainants not being satisfied with the union response and going to the national media, but he had fronted him about it and he denied doing so.
-- Greymouth Star