Hurricanes receive apology from Waratahs after Du’Plessis Kirifi police make ‘racial statements’

Hurricanes lose striker Du'Plessis Kirifi gestures to the crowd after his side's win over Leichhardt Oval on Saturday.  He wrote in an Instagram post Monday that he had heard racist remarks and comments about his mother.

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Hurricanes lose striker Du’Plessis Kirifi gestures to the crowd after his side’s win over Leichhardt Oval on Saturday. He wrote in an Instagram post Monday that he had heard racist remarks and comments about his mother.

The Hurricanes have backed Du’Plessis Kirifi after he gave a one-fingered salute on Saturday night in response to racist taunts in Sydney.

Loose striker Kirifi, who said he heard “racial remarks” and comments about his mother from the crowd during the Hurricanes’ 22-18 win over the Waratahs at Leichhardt Oval, was captured flipping the bird after the Super Rugby Pacific -contest.

Hurricanes CEO Avan Lee spoke Tuesday morning with Kirifi, who previously apologized for the gesture on social media, and said he could understand why he was responding to what he believes were derogatory comments directed at him.

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“Racist comments, or comments about your mother, are not pleasant for a young man to deal with, or anyone for that matter,” Lee said.

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“He regrets what he did, but I can totally understand why he did it – in the heat of battle, after allegedly hearing that kind of language.

“I can accept why he made a mistake. I can understand why it happened.”

Kirifi explained on Instagram why he offered the bird to local fans; while he loved it “when the crowd is hyped and chattering from the stands”, it was not acceptable to be subjected to taunts about his race.

“But there’s a line and just because you’re in the crowd you don’t have the right to talk about my mother or my race,” he wrote.

“Abuse from the sidelines is part of our job, and it’s a part I personally love, but it doesn’t justify racist comments or comments about my family.”

Lee confirmed that he had spoken to Waratah’s CEO Paul Doorn and NZ Rugby.

Thorn was unaware of Kirifi’s social media post at the time of his conversation with Lee on Monday night, but had seen the photo of him popping the middle number.

“He (Doorn) apologized on behalf of the club for the situation,” Lee said. “It was a short conversation, but we agreed to keep talking and work our way through it.”

Hurricanes CEO Avan Lee said Waratahs CEO Paul Doorn had apologized on behalf of the club.

Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Hurricanes CEO Avan Lee said Waratahs CEO Paul Doorn had apologized on behalf of the club.

“We just don’t fully condone racism and that’s what Paul and I were talking about. We need to make sure we’re consistent in our coverage, which isn’t hard when you have a situation like this.

“So we’re very comfortable with where this needs to happen.”

NZ Rugby, as Kirifi’s employer, wanted to know what had led the player to act the way he did. Lee said they were satisfied with his explanation.

The chances of finding who made the comments seem slim. Lee said that because Leichhardt Oval was “quite old”, there was no CCTV footage.

“There’s not much we can do at this stage. Unless someone comes forward, it’s going to be very difficult to figure out exactly what happened and who did it.”

Kirifi said that when he had his time again, he would act in a different way.

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“I admire my teammates who are mature enough to be non-reactive and hopefully next time I’m in this position I’ll show the same determination,” Kirifi said.

“As athletes, we are in the public eye, so I apologize to anyone who has been disappointed in my actions, especially those with children who look up to us as professionals.

“If I had my time again, I would definitely act in a different way.”

Lee reiterated that it was understandable that Kirifi acted in such a way, given the tone of the comments.

“I think if he had his time again, he wouldn’t do what he did on the field,” Lee said.

“But in the heat of the moment, we all do things we might regret.

“It was an unfortunate situation. It was a great night in Sydney, a great atmosphere and crowd. It was just a shame that one person would have ruined that.”

The Waratahs announced this on Tuesday afternoon.

The NSW Waratahs are disappointed to have recently been made aware of an allegation of racial abuse by the mob at Leichhardt Oval against Hurricanes player Du’Plessis Kirifi on Saturday night.

“There is no place for racism in society and this behavior will not be tolerated. The NSW Waratahs celebrate the multicultural diversity of our team and are proud to embrace the inclusiveness of all cultures and races in rugby.”

The Hurricanes host the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday at the Sky Stadium in Wellington.

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