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S.Africa files appeal to avoid Rugby World Cup flag ban

South Africa lodged an appeal on Tuesday against a World Anti-Doping Agency decision that had threatened to see the country’s rugby team barred from flying their flag in this weekend’s World Cup quarter-final against France.

Sport Minister Zizi Kodwa said the appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland, should “stave off” the effects of the WADA decision, sparing the World Cup holders a major embarrassment. 

WADA later confirmed that South Africa would be free to fly their flag until CAS has formally heard the case, effectively defusing the controversy for the time being.

The Montreal-based agency said it had received formal notification of the appeal, adding “the allegation of non-compliance is put on hold and the consequences will not apply until such time as CAS makes its ruling”. 

South Africa had been given until Friday to update its anti-doping legislation in compliance with new WADA rules but was almost certain to miss the deadline.

That would have triggered a ban on the Springboks flying their flag and playing the national anthem at Sunday’s clash against the host nation in Paris.

The South African team competing at the Cricket World Cup, which began in India last week, would also be affected. 

“I believe the grounds for appeal are strong and that the sanctions are not appropriate,” Kodwa said.

“The sanction as it pertains to the flying of the national flag has created unnecessary hysteria and punished athletes and players unfairly”. 

The appeal was filed by the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (Saids), the independent body that oversees anti-doping in South Africa, he added.

The new WADA code came into effect in 2021, and South Africa and Bermuda are the only countries yet to update their regulations, according to the Montreal-based anti-doping organisation.

The debacle has left SA Rugby boss Mark Alexander fuming.

“We have this problem because our government failed to have new legislation promulgated,” he told South African media.

“It is a disgrace. It is an embarrassment for our country. They were issued notice well in advance.”

Kodwa said he presented the needed regulation changes to the cabinet last week and asked for the bill to be fast-tracked through the parliamentary system.

“I am confident that WADA will recognise these efforts as a commitment to pass the amended legislation and suspend the non-compliance declaration” he said.

South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus said he was relieved that the Springboks would likely be able to fly their flag at the weekend.

“We’re glad that it’s in a way sorted out,” he said.

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