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Sharples says NZ Maori not race-based team

Maori Affairs Minister says NZ Maori not race-based team
Dr Pita Sharples, Minister of Maori Affairs 19 February 2009

Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples says Maori rugby teams have a proud and honorable tradition which all New Zealanders can celebrate.

"The first team to leave these shores to play rugby was in fact a Maori team and they played over a hundred games in New Zealand, Australia and Britain during a tour that lasted many months in 1888 and 1889,” said Dr Sharples.

“The playing uniform the All Blacks wear today was derived from the uniform worn by the New Zealand Native Football Team."

“Maori have been playing rugby since the game was first brought here by colonial troops and the armed constabulary. Over the years many many Maori who first played for the Maori All Blacks played their way into the New Zealand All Blacks."

"A Maori team has existed for over 120 years, and in recent times under the guidance of their former coach Matt Te Pou, the Maori team played 19 games in a row without a loss, making them the most successful side in the country.

“The New Zealand Maori team does not claim to be a national team representing people who have been excluded on the basis of race. They represent New Zealand Maori as a matter of indigenous identity and pride,” he said.

“The whole history of racial segregation in sport has been confused, especially in South Africa and New Zealand. Our sporting history shows that New Zealand has made mistakes,” said Dr Sharples.

“During the apartheid era, we recognised all-white Springbok teams as the national representative teams of South Africa, which they were not.

“We allowed South Africa’s apartheid sports policies to intrude into New Zealand, when we accepted that Maori players should not be eligible to play for the All Blacks in South Africa, and later when we accepted a designation of Maori as ‘Honorary Whites’. Those all-white All Black teams were race-based.

“That ended only after the people and governments of New Zealand imposed sporting boycotts of South Africa, which helped to bring down the regime of apartheid,” he said.

“Obviously South African rugby administrators want to avoid at all costs any reintroduction of apartheid sport - for example, by imposing quotas which are actually race-based as a measure to develop non-racial sport. It is for South Africa to make these sorts of decisions.

“New Zealanders should show understanding that these issues may still be contentious in South Africa. I hope that with time and patience we can work through any misunderstandings, because a game between the Springboks and New Zealand Maori would be a fantastic game to see,” said Dr Sharples.


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