Two of Christchurch's elite boys schools have been dragged into a public slanging match over their social standing.
Jibes flew between supporters at last week's annual match between the Christ's College and Christchurch Boys' High School first 15s; and the target was the players' mums.
The mud-slanging row has escalated from the playing field to the letters to the editor page of The Press.
Christ's College supporters have been accused of taunting a "dark-skinned" Christchurch Boys' High School player during last week's annual rugby derby.
As the substitute player came onto the pitch, the black-and-white attired fans chanted, "Your mum's our cleaner."
The school denies any accusation of racism, claiming the sideline supporters were simply replying to a Boys' High jibe of, "Your mum's a gold digger."
One spectator, Matt Harrington, a visitor from Wellington, however, was so affronted by the schoolboy antics that he penned a scathing letter to The Press. That prompted a tit for tat response, including one from Christ's College headmaster Simon Leese.
Mr Harrington, a visitor from Wellington, said he enjoyed the "grudge match," describing the onfield action as "pulsating."
But it was the childish sideline antics that irked him.
He wrote: "You might, however, imagine my eyebrows rising in more than just querulous manner when the boys of evidently wealthier heritage broke into a chant of 'your mum's our cleaner' as a dark-skinned Boys' High reserve approached the field of play.
"No surprise that social class runs deep in education here still.
"Surprising, however, that mummies and daddies had not implanted a greater sense of grace in their Johnnies."
Jennifer Greaves and Bob Gibbons of Burwood wrote to vent their "disgust" over the chanting.
"That the supposedly (sic) cream of our young society should taunt someone whose skin is a different colour to theirs in such an offensive racist manner is a disgrace."
Jenny Jones of Governors Bay was "gobsmacked", saying: "You can boast high exam pass rates, better buildings, nicer uniforms, flash school excursions and whatever else, yet, if that sort of chant is tolerated, the most important attribute is missing."
Letter writer K Whitla, who said she "cleans in the homes of his (Mr Leese's) students" said: "As a professional housekeeper, I take great exception at the implication I and therefore my family are somehow less than those precious boys," she wrote.
The annual fixture, a fierce rivalry going over a century, had become tarred by drunken fights in recent times.
Ugly scenes resulted in police resorting to breath-testing spectators in a bid to stamp out the alcohol-fuelled dramas of recent years.
Mr Leese did not return calls to The Star yesterday. But in his letter to The Press he said, while chanting between the schools was "not particularly creditworthy," he brushed it off as banter.
"CBHS calling Christ's boys 'syrups', and the equivalent 'soggies' in return, has a particularly embarrassing origin (more so for us)," Mr Leese said.
"These mock aggressive provocations have been going on for as long as anyone can remember."
He said the correspondents had missed the self-mocking irony of the jeering, which are not taken seriously, nor do they represent "genuine attitudes."
Fergus McCormick, of Merivale, didn't see anything wrong with the behaviour.
"Quite how the schoolboy chant is in any way racist is beyond me," he wrote.
"The chants - and there were plenty from the Boys' High side that have not exercised your excitable correspondents - were everything you'd expect at a schoolboy match - rudimentary, a bit puerile, but funny on the day."
A spokesman for the Christ's College Old Boys Association said: "I have no comment to make other than that these letters are the result of the way The Press has chosen to report the matter."
Boys' High headmaster Trevor McIntyre described the affair as a "storm in a teacup."
"There was banter and chants that neither school was offended by," he said.
"I play golf with guys who went to the two schools 50 years ago and still call each other 'soggies' and 'syrups'.
"In a way, there's a respect associated with it. It's just a terminology that's stood the test of time."
The game was won by Boys' High 22-0.