Sport and politics can get themselves into a right old tangle - like the government stand against coup-related Fijians coming here to play in the Rugby World Cup.

On the face of it, PM John Key's stand looks like striking a blow for democracy. Frank Bainimarama's 2006 coup has still not resulted in democratic elections.

A coup which began under the banner of sorting out the racists in George Speight's 2000 coup and promoting more equality and less corruption has thus stagnated; looking now like just another greedy grab for power.

The IRB are trying to shake Key from his stance - on the grounds that the New Zealand government agreed to take all teams from all IRB countries when they agreed to host the Cup.

But Key has said that the travel ban preventing coup-related Fijians from coming here (which includes some top rugby players) is the only thing with which New Zealand can hold Fiji's "feet to the fire".

All sounds wonderfully principled, doesn't it? Until you realise that we have specifically invited the Fijians to play the All Blacks in Dunedin on July 22. Go figure. We also routinely play the Fijian sevens team around the world.

These grey areas permit the selective and skilful art of hypocrisy to flower: We don't like the coup - but we want Fiji in the Cup. But they can't play with coup people.

The new head of Fijian rugby is Bainimarama's brother-in-law. But we can invite them to play a special one-off test in Dunedin to help the All Blacks prepare. How's that again?

There is also the case of Zimbabwe. The Black Caps are playing there in October. Why? Robert Mugabe's odious regime may seem more respectable than in past years but the ruthless old so-and-so has brought in democracy only of the very dodgiest sort.

The NZ cricket tour there in 2009 was called off - for a mixture of reasons like "security concerns" and the threat of cholera. Translating that for political expediency, it was the government calling it off so that NZ Cricket didn't have to tour such a stuffed-up country.

If NZC had cried off themselves, they would have been up for all manner of financial penalties from the ICC and would have ended up on the wrong side of cricket's new political controlling order. Zimbabwe cricket (with Mugabe as patron), after all, is the tick that rides on the back of the Indian bloc's pit bull.

Two years have passed, the dust has settled - so off we go again; to a land where human rights ended up in the grave along with some of the 700,000 so viciously "resettled" by Mugabe's henchmen.

Key isn't above reproach either. When a leading Fijian coup figure - Lieutenant-Colonel Ratu Tevita Mara (son of esteemed former PM Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara) - fled Fiji after falling out with Bainimarama recently, Key implied that Mara could be exempt from the travel ban to New Zealand.

This is political expediency of the worst kind; faintly reminiscent of the thinking behind dodgy practices by the US in enlisting Nazi war criminals like Klaus Barbie (the Butcher of Lyon; responsible for the deaths of 14,000 people) as intelligence operatives after World War II. The Cold War had begun; they had a role to play against the Russians - that's how that rationale went. At least until the Nazi hunters caught up with Barbie and others.

Mara was one of the military leaders who seized power in 2006. Falling out with Bainimarama doesn't change that. Key's friendly welcome also overlooked his own travel ban - which applies to those with family links to the regime. Mara's brother-in-law is Ratu Epeli Nailaitikau. He's the President of Fiji. Some link.

Key's little blooper and political dodging aside, what are we to do about Fiji? The Fijians have got snotty about the travel ban and are petitioning the IRB to play their games offshore, so they can field their best team. Failing that, they were threatening to boycott the World Cup before sanity prevailed and the threat was withdrawn.

We are either with Fiji or against them, surely. We can either play them at rugby or sevens or not. Why, if we disapprove of the coup, are we hosting Fiji against the All Blacks next month? Surely we can't have it both ways, even in the murky world of politics.

Fair enough, there's little we can do about overseas assignments. Not playing Fiji in sevens tournaments overseas or in World Cups outside this country is probably going too far; penalising people other than the Fijians. But we can cut the ties; refusing to have Fijian rugby and their other sporting sides here at all. That's what will hurt, not some occasionally irritating travel ban.

If we have the courage of our convictions, then tell them they are not welcome in Dunedin or at the World Cup - and give their Cup opponents a bye.

It's a shame, as the Fijians are worth watching; particularly in matches like their marvellous defeat of Wales in the 2007 Cup. But there are bigger issues at play.

While we are at it, give Zimbabwe a giant miss as well. They are hardly cricketing giants and no one really cares what happens when we play them. Except Zimbabwe.

It won't happen, of course. Such action would be far too black-and-white for the shaded corridors of diplomacy.

If we had to, we could delve into the giant kitbag of political double-talk and find some plausible reason we shouldn't go again.

It calls to mind the fictional master manipulator, Sir Humphrey Appleby, in the old British comedy Yes, Prime Minister: "The truth, in politics, means any statement that cannot be proved false."