26 Jun 2012

NZRU admits under-20s team now under scrutiny

5:27 pm on 26 June 2012

The New Zealand Rugby Union admits the whole Under 20s team is now under scrutiny, following allegations that an unnamed player sexually assaulted a woman while on tour in South Africa.

Police in South Africa are investigating a complaint laid by a 22-year-old woman who says she was raped by at least one New Zealand under-20 player in the early hours of Saturday.

The NZRU says the player, who had been drinking, may face disciplinary action after breaking team protocols by bringing the woman back to the team's hotel.

Its chief executive, Steve Tew says that while the player is upset about the police investigation, he gave a blood sample, and a statement to South African police, before leaving the country.

Mr Tew says the player has made some poor decisions, but they will not name him because no charges have been laid.

He admits that leaves the whole team under scrutiny, which is not a good look for the sport

Cape Town police spokesperson Colonel Vishnu Naidoo says police are treating the allegations seriously and the New Zealand Rugby Union is fully co-operating with the investigation.

Colonel Naidoo told Morning Report the woman is having problems recalling exactly what happened.

"We are assisting in every way possible to try and get her to remember exactly what happened during the course of the night."

Colonel Naidoo says police will also gather witness statements and collect evidence at the scene.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew says the player and his roommate have given DNA samples.

He believes there was enough supervision for the players but says management cannot stop people making individual decisions to ignore team protocol.

The team, also known as the Baby Blacks, was competing in the IRB Junior World Championships in Cape Town and had lost to South Africa on Friday.

Mr Tew told media on Tuesday that the players were reminded in the changing sheds after the match of their responsibilities representing New Zealand and their families "and also of the dangers of being in a foreign country where clearly you put yourself at risk if you take poor decisions."

"It's obvious this young man has made a poor decision and he's now dealing with it", he added.

Prime Minister John Key says he expects sports people travelling overseas to keep within the laws of the country they are in, and if there is a case to answer the player will have to deal with it.

"If there was a need for a certain individual to return to South Africa, then that's a matter that would be in the first instance taken up with MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) in terms of advice. But that's a long way off."

The NZRU says it will carry out its own review of the tour and will consider disciplinary action against the player for breaching protocol.