Case of assault against Rondebosch Boys’ High rugby coach tossed out of court

Case of assault against Rondebosch Boys’ High rugby coach tossed out of court
Clinton van Rensburg, Head Coach of Rondebosch Boys' High during the Mutual and Federal Premier Interschools match between Bishops and Rondebosch at Bishops School on 8 June, 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Peter Heeger/Gallo Images)

A case of assault of a minor, levelled against a Rondebosch Boys’ High School rugby coach, has been dismissed before trial, due to poor evidence.

The case of assault of a minor lodged against Rondebosch Boys’ High School rugby coaching coordinator and rugby coach, Clinton van Rensburg was dismissed in the Wynberg Magistrates’ Court on Friday 18 August.

The Magistrate found that the evidence presented by the State was insufficient and of a poor standard. The case was therefore dismissed, per section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA), without Van Rensburg having taken the stand for trial.

Van Rensburg was accused of assault after allegedly striking a player from an opposing team at South African College School (SACS), on 13 August 2022.

The SACS player alleged that he was struck with a closed fist by Van Rensburg in the rib cage after the match concluded between the two rival schools.

Van Rensburg had made 10 appearances in the Wynberg Magistrates’ Court since his arrest on 23 September 2023.

On 10 July, Van Rensburg’s defence of Advocate Lee Gabriel and attorney Pieter Schalk Brink invoked Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

This section 174 clause encompasses the right of an accused to be discharged from the offence he has allegedly committed at the closing of the prosecution’s case, if the defence believes the State did not prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

On Monday 7 August, the complainant was cross-examined and according to the presiding Magistrate, Ms Petersen, the complainant changed his versions of events numerous times from the original testimony as well as witness testimony being unreliable.

Final decision

Magistrate Petersen read out the decision to a full courthouse on Friday afternoon.

“The court is of the opinion that there is no evidence that the accused committed the offence referred to in the charge or any offence of which he may be convicted on the charge,” she said.

The Magistrate confirmed that the match, which took place on 13 August last year, was attended by more than 3 000 people, was streamed on SuperSport as well as there being professional photographers present.

The Magistrate confirmed that the complainant changed his version of events numerous times during cross-examination on Monday 7 August this year.

“There are many contradictions in the witness testimony,” Magistrate Petersen said.

“The complainant was adapting his version during his testimony.

“In respect of exhibit B, it is clear that there was no assault that took place between the two. There is no clenched fist of the accused and his hand is not on the rib of the complainant.”

Exhibit B is a photograph of the complainant and the accused shaking hands after the match.

“This court does not believe that the accused would assault the complainant for no reason and jeopardise his career for a punch in front of thousands of people and the match was streamed on television.

“The injury sustained by the complainant… It is highly probable that he suffered such injuries as a result of the tackles [sustained during the match].

“The quality of the evidence is so poor in this matter that it cannot be expected for the accused to be placed on his defence.

“The application in terms of section 174 of the CPA is granted and the accused is found not guilty and discharged.”

Rondebosch Boys’ high

Rondebosch coach Clinton van Rensburg (centre) during the Schools U19A match between Bishops and Rondebosch at Bishops on 21 August, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: / Gallo Images)

Rondebosch reply 

When asked for comment, Rondebosch Boys’ High headmaster Shaun Simpson, questioned the role of the media in covering the case.

“It has been the source of great disappointment, frustration and unsolicited pressure to see how this case has been handled by the media when applying just a small iota of objective integrity in reporting should have led to more probing questions,” Simpson said in email correspondence with Daily Maverick.

“It has been disappointing to read the subtle phraseology and word choice in a world that is particularly sensitive to child abuse, painting a good man in the mind of the readers as a certain stereotype. It has been frustrating to live out the sub-judice rule by not commenting before a judgment when others are allowed free rein to comment as they please.

“This is a case which should have raised good, probing questions in journalists committed to telling a proper story. Good questions to my mind would be — ‘Why would a man with an unblemished record and no history of violence, punch a teenage boy at this particular game in front of a large crowd?’

“What are the connections between this boy and this man? Why is there a sudden interest from the press in this story after a year of appearances, at this moment just before judgement is to be reached?

“Why was a discredited medical professional used to support the narrative being given to the court? The case was dismissed on the basis of a lack of credible evidence that the alleged incident occurred. In the face of this, why did the State prosecutor continue to pursue it?

“There are many possible stories that could be told here. There is the story of how some compromised members of the press can be used to build public pressure and have an individual tried in the court of public opinion and to influence the outcome.

“There is the story of how schools with a sporting profile are increasingly placed under pressure by some parents with their own baggage and agendas who will continue with no consideration of the cost to their children to demand that their sons play sport at a particular level, even if unmerited, and put pressure on their sons to live out the dreams that the parents were denied in their own sporting ambitions under the apartheid system.

“There is a story about how this may lead a teenage boy to precariously do anything to deflect his parent’s and his own disappointment at not performing at that level.”

‘Dedicated’ coach

Simpson also detailed Van Rensburg’s history as a schoolboy rugby coach at Rondebosch Boys’ High School.

“Most of all there is a story about a man who has dedicated his life to developing young players, particularly players from previously disadvantaged backgrounds and whose good reputation has been placed in jeopardy by all of the above forces,” the headmaster continued.

“There is a story about a man who will go to great lengths to offer sporting opportunities to talented young men who would not otherwise have received them by pleading their cases to the school and finding funding.

“There is the story of how his efforts in this way have led to numerous sporting successes including such high-profile figures as the Springbok Sevens players, Delvin Blood and Zain Davids.

“There is the story, an ongoing story, of how Mr van Rensburg and his wife have opened their own home to several boys from financially constrained homes when they could not be accommodated in boarding because of funding or space.

“There is a long line of names of boys who will attest with gratitude to Mr van Rensburg’s mentorship and care for them and their families in his role at Rondebosch. Each has a story to tell. These are the stories of hope, reconciliation and nation-building that are ripe to be told in the world of sport in a country where bad news and character assassination is the low-hanging fruit.”

Daily Maverick reported on the original facts of the case available to the public.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Rondebosch Boys’ High rugby coach in court on charges of alleged assault of rival minor player 

Van Rensburg did not respond to a request to comment on the matter, at the original time of publishing. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Graeme J says:

    The complainant clearly has a screw loose.

    Rondebosch Boys’ High headmaster’s comments about the media coverage of this non-event is pithy and puissant.

  • Grenville Wilson says:

    Extremely poor journalism, did this really happen on 23 June 2013? And then the article talks about SACS, Bishopsand Rondebosch? Which schools were involved? The states case might have been bad but the journalism is worse!

  • John Smythe says:

    Get your dates right, Keanan. How could Van Rensburg have made 10 appearances at court since his arrest on 23 September 2023. Basic errors.
    And to all those (including a DM journalist) who were quite willing to drag a respected man’s name through the mud based upon tabloid journalism by DM and hearsay: Hang your heads in shame.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    I hope Clinton sues the pants off the parents and makes them pay for their disgraceful actions that have probably messed up his reputation forever. I do feel sorry for the son who possibly got dragged into the whole nonsense by them, but then how would we know – perhaps another one of those spoilt SACS Posh Boys gone crying to mommy and daddy?

    Oh and BTW I assume the game was on the 13 August 2022, not 2023? [That’s how I worked out which school the kid presumably came from. ]

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