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Springboks: US tour a political play?

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One of the most closely guarded secrets in Chicago this week is where South Africa's traveling rugby team, the Springboks, will play its scheduled Midwestern match this weekend.

If it is played at all -- and organizers insist it will be even if in a cornfield -- it may well be a game without an audience.

Such willingness to play without the usual income generated by ticket sales has fueled suspicions among critics here that it is not so much a sporting as a propaganda victory that the South African team is eager to score.

For many of those protesting the team's Chicago visit, the secrecy surrounding the choice of a site convinces them that their target is well chosen.

"This is far more than a good old sporting event," insists Chicago Alderman Danny K. Davis."It seems to me this is a political action aimed at propagandizing."

"I think the big thing they want is to be able to go back home and say they played successfully in the United States," agrees Norman Watkins of Clergy and Laity Concerned, a group involved in protests against the team. In his view: "This could be a very hot week."

For the US, there may be ramifications beyond any immediate reactions to the Springboks visit.

The International Olympic Committee meets in West Germany Sept. 22, and there have been unconfirmed reports that the Soviet Union may request that the committee move the 1984 summer Olympic games from Los Angeles because of the south African team's visit here. In any case, some 50 countries, including the Soviet Union and many in Africa, have threatened to pull out of the games because of the visit. Though urged to deny visas to the South African visitors in the first place, the State Department declined to get involved with what official term "private sporting groups."


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