SANZAR, the multinational body governing the Super XV Rugby competition, has suspended South African team The Sharks from all upcoming matches following last week’s horrific attack on a man at Muriwai Beach, west of Auckland.
Adam Strange, 46, was swimming at Muriwai on February 27th when he was set upon and viciously torn to shreds in an apparent shark attack. He died at the scene. While it was initially understood that Strange was attacked by a single shark, more recent reports have indicated that two sharks were involved in the incident.
Today’s suspension came after a week and a half where police failed to determine which two sharks were responsible for the attack. “While we regret having to suspend an entire team for the actions of just a few” said SANZAR Chief Executive Greg Peters. “We cannot simply stand by and do nothing while rumours continue to swirl around our organisation. The fact of the matter is, people want to know which of our players dragged a man underwater and tore him limb from limb just so they could eat his flesh, and that kind of speculation does nothing but damage to the Super XV brand.”
That damage was most apparent at last week’s face-off between The Sharks and The Stormers, at which the Cape Town stadium failed to reach even half capacity; many ticket-holders expressing that they were simply too afraid to show up.
Stadium-goers weren’t the only ones unnerved. Captain of The Stormers Schalk Burger, who lost to The Sharks in Cape Town, suggested that the outcome may have been influenced by his team’s “crippling fear” of “being mauled to death”. “I think you’re just acutely aware, when you’re out there, of what happened in Auckland last week” he said after the match. “And you think to yourself, ‘God, I better not get too close to Kankowski.’”
Acting Sharks captain Francois Steyn spoke to reporters briefly today. “Look, obviously, we don’t want to talk about this at the moment” he said. “But as you can imagine, the boys are pretty disappointed.” When asked who on his team he thought was most likely to have savagely devoured a man at a public beach, he responded “Probably Mtembu.”
Earlier today, reporters reached out to The Sharks’ Team Manager, Trevor Barnes, but he declined to comment. Instead, he issued a statement which read, in part: “The Sharks are extremely disappointed by today’s decision, and we will be challenging the ruling in due course. We made it very clear to the board that we take this situation seriously, and we have been fully cooperating with police. This decision is completely inexplicable to us.” The statement went on to claim that team management had given police “complete access” to “all our black players”, and would willingly hand them over if suspension were lifted.
As a result of the suspension, The Southern Kings, who were set to face off against The Sharks this weekend, will not have their match rescheduled, and will instead be playing against an empty field. This came as welcome news to the Kings, who feel that they might now have a small chance.