UPDATE: They were discarded by the South African Rugby Union in the face of threats of violence by political opponents of Israel.
Now they have been snapped up by one of the giants of the game!
SARU announced in February that it had withdrawn an invitation to the Tel Aviv Heat to play in the Mzansi Challenge, following representations from ‘multiple stakeholders’.
In response, Israel’s first professional team slammed SARU for peddling ‘politics of hatred ‘.
The saga took a turn at World Rugby, who – despite acknowledging that SARU ‘bent the knee’ to political extremists – suggested it was unlikely to take any action over the Mzanzi Challenge logomachy.
It was revealed on Wednesday that French giants Stade Français Paris and the Heat have agreed to a new partnership.
In a statement, the Heat said this collaboration will focus on the exchange of players and other working methods on the sporting side, and will also allow for the organization of friendly matches.
“On the educational level, this partnership will provide a special connection between Tel Aviv University and Stade Académie, Stade Français Paris’ training tool established two years ago,” the statement read.
It will also include the development and research of new technologies – essential assets of the Israeli club – that will pave the way for exchanges around innovations applicable to rugby.
“We are proud of this merger with the Tel Aviv Heat club which is part of our international development strategy with targeted, leading, and innovative clubs,” Thomas Lombard, Directeur Général du Stade Français Paris, said.
“During our visit to Israel, we were able to appreciate the culture, the Tel Aviv University campus, the infrastructure, and discuss technological innovations applicable to rugby.
“We look forward to starting discussions with the Heat to perfect the training of our young players, both educationally and athletically.”
Pete Sickle, CEO of Tel Aviv Heat, added: “As the first professional rugby team from Startup Nation, we have constantly sought out players and partners like Stade Français Paris, who remain dedicated both to the core values of rugby – solidarity, passion, integrity, discipline, and respect – and have strived to leverage the power of rugby to build bridges and transform lives.
“We are proud that Stade Français Paris Rugby has chosen to collaborate with the Heat to create opportunities and rich experiences on and off the field.
“We are looking forward to many years of driving mutual value to the two clubs.”
Adi Raz, Chairman, Tel Aviv Heat: “In our first discussions, Thomas Lombard shared his perspective that ‘Better people make better players’, a spirit embraced by everyone from Stade Francais whom we have met.
“We are incredibly proud that Stade Français Paris, founded 140 years ago and one of the greatest rugby clubs of the last 20 years, has chosen to partner with the Tel Aviv Heat, a sporting start-up striving to disrupt the Rugby world.
“We look forward to the opportunity to work together to develop a fruitful and meaningful partnership.”
It is not the first time Stade Français was linked to such a partnership.
The suspended former President of the Western Province Rugby Football Union Zelt Marais and a close associate, the discredited former Southern Spears CEO Tony McKeever, had exploratory talks with the French giants about a similar collaboration.
However, as @rugby365com reported back in March 2021, the Stade Directeur Général, Lombard, called off the talks because the conditions were not beneficial to the French team.
HeatGate: World Rugby set to ‘clear’ SARU
SARU to ‘investigate’ Round One snake pit
SARU forges ahead, despite fixture chaos
SARU accused of peddling ‘politics of hatred’
SARU pulls the plug on Tel Aviv Heat
WPRFU & Stade: Another McKeever misfire
WPRFU & Stade: McKeever only a ‘facilitator’