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Rugby player loses appeal

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iol news pic Ben Zimri

INLSA

Former Delicious Rugby Club player Ben Zimri. File picture: Enrico Jacobs

Cape Town - Former Delicious Rugby Club player Ben Zimri failed to convince the Western Cape High Court on Friday that it should overturn his conviction and sentencing for the death of another rugby player.

The Worcester Regional Court convicted Zimri of culpable homicide and sentenced him to five years in jail in 2009 for the death of Rawsonville Rugby Club player Riaan Loots.

The first teams of both clubs played a tournament match at the Rawsonville stadium on June 23, 2006, which was punctuated by acrimonious play.

Towards the end of the match, Loots was found lying on the field and died later in hospital after being declared brain dead.

The court found, through the testimony of many State witnesses, that Zimri had swung his arm at Loots' throat, and knocked him onto the floor.

He then kicked the prone player's head.

Zimri appealed the regional court's findings on two grounds.

He contended that State witnesses had contrived the same version of events to implicate him, and that the regional court had not taken into account underlying racial disharmony between the two teams.

Western Cape High Court Judges Rosheni Allie, Willem Louw and Ashley Binns-Ward unanimously agreed on Friday that the lower court had come to the correct decision in finding that Zimri acted negligently, with no regard for Loots' physical wellbeing.

“The deceased was a young man in the prime of his life who was brutally felled in the heat of a rugby match,” the appeal judgment read.

“While rugby can fairly be described as a robust game, it is meant to build confidence and a sportsman-like team spirit; not hostility and aggression.”

Regarding Zimri's sentence, the Bench could not find misdirection by the lower court to justify interference.

National Prosecuting Authority regional spokesman Eric Ntabazalila said it welcomed the judgment.

“We hope that Zimri will start serving his sentence as soon as possible.” - Sapa


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