South Africa seek to avoid Rugby World Cup flag, anthem bans

South Africa will this week announce plans to defuse a row over non-compliance with anti-doping regulations that could see the rugby team barred from flying their flag in this weekend's World Cup quarter-final against France, an official told AFP on Monday.

The country looks set to miss a Friday deadline to update its anti-doping legislation.

Lawmakers are still debating the regulation changes demanded by world anti-doping body WADA, and have no hope of passing new legislation before Friday's deadline.

Missing the deadline would trigger a ban on the world champions' flying their flag and playing the national anthem for Sunday's crunch clash in Paris.

One of the few options available to the Springboks to avoid the sanctions would be to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to buy time.

The new WADA code came into effect in 2021, and South Africa and Bermuda are the only countries not to update their regulations, according to the Montreal-based anti-doping organisation.

A South African sports ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP on Monday that "there will be an announcement early this week concerning our plans".

"Among possibilities being considered is appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland." 

Another ministry official told South African media that the "government is engaging with WADA in relation to our amendment bill, and we will provide an update in due course.

"However, there is no way we will be in a situation where our teams will not play under the South African flag."

If South Africa fails to take action this week, the Springboks could also be banned from wearing the national flag on their jerseys.

- 'Government failed' -

It has left SA Rugby boss Mark Alexander fuming.

"We have this problem because our government failed to have new legislation promulgated," he told South African media.

"It is a disgrace. It is an embarrassment for our country. They were issued notice well in advance.

"This is not a debatable thing. You cannot change things. You just have to put it in your legislation.

"We are supposed to conform to WADA requirements. We failed to change our legislation to include the changes".

"Heads should roll," added Alexander. 

In a separate interview, Springboks scrum coach Daan Human insisted the controversy was not affecting the players' preparations.

"The Springbok players are 100 percent focused on the job, on what needs to be done this week," said Human.

"It does not matter in which colour jersey, or a jersey without a flag on, or even without the national anthem.

"I can assure you of one thing -- the players, the coaches and the backroom staff are here to represent South Africa.

"They represent 60 million people back home and they are willing to fight for them."

Were a WADA ban enforced, it would also affect the South African team competing at the Cricket World Cup, which began in India last Thursday.

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