WELLINGTON, May 21 (Reuters) - Canterbury Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has defended his players against accusations of homophobic behaviour, saying an altercation in a Cape Town fast food restaurant was due to a misunderstanding over a “selfie”.
The Super Rugby champions on Monday said three players, team management and a South African-based security advisor were present during the incident but all “strongly” refuted accusations on social media that the players directed homophobic slurs and gestures at patrons.
Arriving back in New Zealand late on Monday, Robertson said Crusaders and All Blacks winger George Bridge was one of the players involved and was “extremely, authentically genuine” that nothing untoward was said.
“George said, ‘Mate, I just want to have a photo with you’ ... There was no interaction with anyone else,” Robertson told local media.
“That’s where the misinterpretation came. A selfie gone wrong, really.
“(Bridge) just can’t understand how it’s got to this platform.”
A local Twitter user posted an account of the incident on Monday that accused the players of being “physically intimidating” and mocking his friends with high-pitched voices and homophobic gestures.
The incident followed the Crusaders’ 19-19 draw with the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday.
Robertson insisted his players “never had any dialogue with anyone.”
“That’s it and that’s how simple it is. Where it is now is amazing to us. As a team and as a culture, our values have been strong.
“We understand what’s happened across the ditch (in Australia) and it’s in the forefront of our mind. We’ve talked about it as a group.”
On Friday, Australia fullback Israel Folau had his four-year contract terminated for posting on social media that hell awaited “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers” and others.
A Cape Town man who identified himself as a friend of the accusers told New Zealand media that he had asked one of the players why he was filming his friend with his mobile phone.
“He then said, ‘Well, we look funny’,” the man, who only gave his first name as Jeremy, told Radio New Zealand.
“We asked him to delete the videos and then he said he already deleted them.
“Then we asked him to show us he deleted them and he said ‘make me’. It was then when his team mates started laughing and got their phones out.
“I am speaking for the queer community of South Africa and Cape Town in voicing that we are tired of these experiences.”
In a separate incident, a woman accused another Crusaders and All Blacks player of spitting beer on her and her friends at a Cape Town night-spot earlier in the week.
She told Radio New Zealand that Richie Mo’unga had apologised to her the next day when she contacted him via Instagram.
Radio New Zealand posted a screenshot of Mo’unga’s apology in which he admitted to being drunk.
“Obviously was intoxicated and should’ve gone home long before that stage, I’m sorry to you and your friends and want to assure you I don’t condone that behaviour and am sorry about that,” the post said.
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Greg Stutchbury