- Eastern Province Rugby has condemned another violent club rugby incident where players and a referee were assaulted during a match.
- The incident also turned racial after an official allegedly insulted black club rugby players using the K-word.
- It’s the second ugly incident involving EP clubs in two months after a violent melee broke out in a match between Jeffreys Bay and PE Harlequins.
Eastern Province Rugby has been rocked by another ugly, violent club rugby incident in a matter of months after players got into a physical scuffle and a referee was assaulted in a club game between Kowie United and Swallows RFC (Makhanda) in Port Alfred last Saturday.
According to an eye-witness, one of Swallows’ managers who asked to remain anonymous, the game had a tense atmosphere throughout and after the match an unnamed Kowie United member allegedly “slapped” the referee, Nqaba Lamani, after unhappiness with some of the officiating decisions.
Two months ago, shocking video footage emerged online showing a violent melee breaking out at full-time between Jeffreys Bay and PE Harlequins rugby clubs, where players were stabbed and some hospitalised.
In the latest incident, according to community newspaper, Talk of the Town, Makhanda’s Swallows (an historically black club) beat hosts Kowie United (historically coloured club) 25-17, but the game was marred by the attack on referee Lamani.
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The incident also turned racial after one Kowie United affiliated rugby and (Station Hill Cricket Club) cricket administrator, Andy Jones, allegedly used the K-word in WhatsApp messages referring to Swallows’ black players.
News24 obtained screenshots of the WhatsApp group messages wherein Jones uses the term, which is considered hate speech in South Africa – crimen injuria by law.
Jones initially told News24 he was not able to comment on the allegations of his use of the K-word before changing tact and striking a contrite tone, saying he had apologised to those he offended in the text message.
“I’m really sorry about what I said. I was under the influence. It was wrong,” said Jones.
“It was definitely wrong from me and I apologise to everybody. I sent apologies to the president of the whole league, to the clubs and players as well.
“We don’t want that in sport. I really am sorry. I’ve been battling with this [incident] and haven’t slept for two nights. That’s not who I am. This thing is really eating me.
“Everybody in [Makhanda] knows who I am and the type of person I am.”
Eastern Province Rugby Union president Maasdorp Cannon said the provincial mother body that governs amateur rugby in the region was informed of the incident that took place last weekend.
However, Cannon said he wasn’t apprised of the racism allegations that followed in the aftermath, but he condemned the use of the racist slur.
“I’m not privy to that part but we pride ourselves on being totally anti-racist,” Cannon told News24.
“This union is anti-racist. Our history and our legacy speaks of such. We won’t condone it.
“In fact, we’d go a step further to say that our rules in our constitution say we are apolitical, not party political.
“You see this kind of thing re-emerging in our society in general, but sport, specifically rugby, has been a driver of the anti-racism agenda.
“We take exception to it. And, if this is true, and this is a member of the club that participated, then that member must be removed. I can say that without apology.
“That person must be re-educated and rehabilitated. But we’d rather remove him and let rehabilitation take place on the outside.”
Kowie United head coach Stewart Abrahams declined to comment on the extent of the attack or injuries, saying he was not at liberty to speak on behalf of the club.
Sedru chairperson Deon Hilpert, whose sub-union the matches were played under, also failed to shed light on the incident and referred the publication to Eastern Province Rugby Union.
Cannon said EP Rugby received a report of the incident and investigations were taking place at sub-union level under their affiliate, South Eastern Districts Rugby Union (Sedru).
Cannon told News24 that, according to what was reported to EP Rugby, the root cause of the incident stemmed from spectator anger at the refereeing decisions.
“From what we could gather, there was a hundred other referees on the sidelines, meaning the fans were not happy with the interpretation of the rules by the sole judge of the game on the field (the referee),” said Cannon
“It was mostly the home fans, who were trailing at that stage and it was clear that the visiting opposition would become victors at the end.”
Cannon also condemned the spread of violence in club rugby in the province.
“We are on record as saying we don’t take any violence or abuse at our games [lightly]. We don’t condone violence and we take strong excepting to it and [will] take strong action if needs be,” Cannon said.
“You’ll recall the game earlier this year at Jeffreys Bay, where an incident happened and we took action. We suspended all games on the home ground of the club and instituted a thorough investigation into it.
“A player was subsequently suspended. A perpetrator of violence was identified and handed over to the police. The same perpetrator was also banned from rugby.
“We have referred the current one to our sub-union structure (Sedru), who dealt with it last night (Tuesday) after an investigation. Subsequent to the meeting they held last night, they will furnish us with the steps they will take.
“I’ve been informed, informally, that there will be hearings and a series of disciplinary inquiries that will happen. I believe that the person who assaulted the referee has been positively identified. We are just awaiting recommendations.”