Boland rugby player stabbed in latest violent incident at club level

Boland rugby player stabbed in latest violent incident at club level
Referees remain the ultimate authority on a rugby field, but recent events are sending an alarming signal to officials. (Photo: Mark Nolan / Getty Images)

Another assault on a rugby field in a matter of weeks highlights a worrying trend at club rugby level.

Just weeks after referees were assaulted during club rugby matches in the Eastern Cape, a player was stabbed at halftime by a member of the opposition in a club match in the Boland on 3 June.

The game between home team Never Despair and Porterville at the Alfa Street Stadium in Malmesbury was called off after a Porterville player stabbed a Never Despair team member while the sides were taking halftime refreshments.

“The Boland Rugby Union (BRU) mourns the shocking incident yesterday during a League A match between Never Despair and Porterville at the Alfa Street Stadium in Malmesbury where a player from the home club [Never Despair] was stabbed with a knife on the field during the halftime break,” the BRU said in a statement.

“The union immediately reached out to the Never Despair rugby community to assist in any way possible. The chairman of Never Despair chased after the culprit, and with the help of players, the person was detained and handed over to SAPS.

“The vice-chairman of the club, Mr James Davids, a paramedic, attended to the wounded player until he was taken to hospital by ambulance. The player was discharged from hospital today [Sunday].

“After a discussion between management of the two clubs and match officials, the match was called off because the referees were too traumatised to go ahead.

“Randall Swarts, the chairman of the visiting club, confirmed to Boland Rugby that his club was satisfied that the host club’s safety procedures were in order, with security visible.

“The traumatic events, even though isolated, are viewed in a very serious light by the union. The union immediately discussed the incident with the club in order to obtain a detailed report.”

Referee Egon Seconds and Assistant Referee Paul Mente in extra time during the Currie Cup semifinal match between DHL Western Province and Vodacom Blue Bulls at DHL Newlands Stadium on 20 October 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images)

Saru reminds unions to act strongly

Only last week, SA Rugby Union (Saru) president Mark Alexander issued a warning to member unions to stamp out incidents of intimidation and violence against match officials and between players.

In March, three players from Harlequins club in Gqeberha were stabbed at Pellsrus Sports Ground after a game against Jeffreys Bay Rugby Club.

A police spokesperson said at the time that supporters invaded the pitch and attacked the Harlequins players. The injured players received treatment at the scene.

Last month, there was another incident in the Eastern Cape where club officials physically assaulted a referee after a club game between Kowie United and Swallows RFC (Makhanda). The match took place in Port Alfred.

Alexander said he would be writing to all 15 member unions of Saru, urging their disciplinary committees to take the strongest possible action against individuals and clubs under their authority who physically or verbally abused match officials or failed to adequately protect officials.

“These hot-headed thugs who physically assault officials have no place in the sport and should be banned for life from participating or attending,” Alexander said.

“We must protect our match officials – without whom there would be no sport – and the message must go out in the strongest possible terms that such actions will not be tolerated.”

Alexander was speaking following incidents involving assault on officials in the Eastern Cape.

“Attacks on referees are rare, but when they occur, provinces must not hesitate to act,” he said. 

“These attacks have been condemned by the relevant unions and I trust they will follow through by bringing these matters before disciplinary committees. 

“I shall be repeating our message of ‘zero tolerance’ for such behaviour with our members.”

Alexander stressed that physical abuse of match officials is regarded as the most serious offence a player or official could commit. That was reflected in World Rugby’s schedule of recommended sanctions.

The entry-level sanction for a player physically abusing a match official is 24 weeks, which rises to a life ban as the maximum sanction.

“There can be no sympathy or toleration of the assailants,” said Alexander. 

“There is no reason at all why anyone involved should lay a hand on a match official. If it does not happen in the most pressured environment of Test rugby, why should it happen at a club match? It must be clamped down on most severely.

“Rugby is a physical game where players go hammer-and-tongs at each other for 80 minutes but at the final whistle, we shake hands and have a drink with each other. That is the proud ethos of rugby – this type of behaviour is a disgrace and unacceptable. It is every player who is the role model and trendsetter in your community. Rugby can make a positive impact on your community like no other sport can.

“At the heart of rugby is a unique ethos which it has retained over the years. Not only is the game played to the Laws, but within the spirit of the Laws. Through discipline, control and mutual self-respect, a fellowship and sense of fair play are forged, defining rugby as the game it is.

“Living the values of the game both on and off the field is of paramount importance, and during discussions and negotiations in boardrooms and meeting rooms, is crucial to the success and enjoyment of rugby.”

Two weeks ago, Ireland captain Johnny Sexton stormed on to the field after the European Champions Cup final to berate South African official Jaco Peyper.

Sexton, who did not play in the final for his club Leinster against La Rochelle, was seen walking over to Peyper on the field (where Sexton has no right to be as a non-playing member of the team) and verbally assaulted him.

So far, no action has been taken against Sexton.

In 2021, Springbok director of rugby Rassie Erasmus received a 10-month suspension after a video in which he dissected the poor performance of referee Nic Berry became public.

Although Erasmus did not scream in the ref’s face like Sexton, his actions were deemed to be a serious breach of rugby’s disciplinary code. DM


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