A rugby brawl involving two KwaZulu-Natal clubs and allegations of racism are being probed by the KZN Rugby Union (KZNRU), which has warned of “very strong” action if found to be true.
The Sydenham-based Jaguars Rugby Club and Richards Bay Rugby Club have locked horns after what did – or did not happen – on and off the playing field of the northern KZN town last weekend.
According to a Jaguars source, the matches were marred by “racial animosity” and in the first game, a brawl ensued. The source claimed that a Jaguars player was assaulted – while being stitched up by medical personnel.
He also claimed a black Jaguars coach was refused entrance to a public toilet because of his race.
Desmond Hibbert, chairman of Richards Bay Rugby Club, dismissed the racism claims as “hearsay” on Sunday.
Jaguars said on their Facebook page last week: “The games in Richards Bay were marred by blatant racism and discrimination from Richards Bays’ players, their management and their supporters.
“In 2012 we still experience what our fathers felt 50 years ago.”
Hibbert said brawls were not uncommon in rugby, and the poor refereeing had frustrated both sets of players.
“They (Jaguars) want to make claims about something that they cannot substantiate,” he said. “We have asked them to point out the individuals who are said to be implicated in this, but they have failed to do so.”
Hibbert said his club had never been involved in a racial matter before.
The Jaguars management, headed by Khethu Mabaso, refused to comment on the issue until a decision was made by the rugby union.
Asked why he refused to talk, Mabaso said: “I am not scared of anyone, I am known all over KZN for speaking my mind. We as the club have taken a stance to not speak to any media until we know the outcomes of the investigation.”
The Jaguars first team won the match 54-14, and their second team narrowly won 36-31.
KZN Rugby Union Council president, Graham MacKenzie, said the union would “act in a very strong way” if the allegations of acts of racism were found to be true.
He confirmed that complaints of racism and rough play would be heard at a hearing to be held on Wednesday in Richards Bay.
An independent attorney would chair the hearing, MacKenzie said.
Durban district clubs had varying views on racism in club rugby.
A member of the Clermont Rugby Club, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation, said racism in club rugby had become commonplace.
“The union (KZNRU) is controlled by white people; they are protecting their asset by discriminating against us,” he said.
He said some black players progressed faster within junior and club ranks, but were overlooked for less-talented white players when it came to selection for provincial rugby.
Bhuti Mngadi, chairman of Amabhubhesi, said areas outside of Durban were known to be problematic, but he could not recall any serious incident in the past three years. “Sometimes people exaggerate about these issues,” he said. “They (white teams) fight among themselves, too. When a black player gets punched on the field, he says in defence, ‘It’s because I’m black’, when in fact it is not the case.”
Siphiwe Miya, chairman of Chesterville Cheetahs, said referees were often biased in favour of a particular team, but he said he could not recall an incident of racism. “I would be lying if I said one of my players had been racially targeted.”
Ian Losinsky, the Collegians chairman, said there was a good representation of cultures in the game and that if it were found to be true that racism was evident, it would be an isolated incident.
“I don’t think racism is common, certainly not in Durban,” said Losinsky. “I’ve never had any of my players complain to me.” - Daily News