The Crusaders Super Rugby team is in the spotlight for something other than their performance on-field.
WELLINGTON - New Zealand Rugby and the Canterbury Crusaders have launched an investigation into two separate incidents in Cape Town last week that has seen allegations of homophobic and unsocial behaviour levelled at the Super Rugby team's players.
Crusaders players, including All Blacks winger George Bridge, were accused of directing homophobic slurs and gestures at patrons at a fast food restaurant over the weekend.
In a separate incident, the team's flyhalf Richie Mo'unga, also an All Black, was alleged to have spat beer at people at a night-spot earlier in the week.
The three Crusaders players embroiled in the restaurant incident "strongly refuted" allegations of homophobia, the team said on Monday, while coach Scott Robertson played it down as a misunderstanding over a 'selfie'.
But with witnesses coming forward to criticise the players on local radio, New Zealand Rugby said it had launched a probe.
"The allegations that have been made about players, in two different incidences, are very serious," New Zealand Rugby's Chief Rugby Officer Nigel Cass said in a statement on Tuesday.
"These allegations are about abuse, inappropriate and offensive behaviour, and we do not tolerate this.
"At the same time, the players are refuting the details of the claims made. Because the nature of these allegations is serious, it is important that we carefully look at these claims without prejudice or assumptions."
Crusaders CEO Colin Mansbridge said on Tuesday the players involved were "distraught about the accusations" and continued to refute them.
"Clearly the right thing to do is to formalise the investigation into these matters, which would allow both sides to be heard."
Robertson defended his players late on Monday after arriving back from South Africa.
He said Bridge had wanted a photo with one of the patrons at the restaurant.
"There was no interaction with anyone else," Robertson told local media.
"That's where the misinterpretation came. A selfie gone wrong, really."
Following reports of the restaurant incident, a woman came forward to accuse Mo'unga of spitting beer on her and her friends.
She told Radio New Zealand that Mo'unga had apologised to her the next day when she contacted him via Instagram.