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Guilty! That’s the verdict of the KwaZulu-Natal Rugby Union on a charge that a provincial club failed to take action against its supporters after a racist brawl in Richards Bay recently.
But the Durban-based Jaguars Rugby Club, which lodged a complaint of assault and racism, is incensed at the sanction given by the rugby union.
As punishment, the Richards Bay Rugby Club would forfeit its next home game scheduled for June 30, and also those for the rest of the year until it drew up a list of actions for the rugby union that the club would implement to prevent further trouble from its fans.
The club was also found guilty of failing to provide adequate spectator control, which could have prevented the assault of a Jaguars prop, as well as the discriminatory behaviour levelled at the chairman of the Jaguars club, a report of the hearing said.
The Daily News reported a fortnight ago that racial slurs, rough play and the assault of an injured Jaguars player – who was receiving medical attention at the time – had taken place in Richards Bay, where the two teams were playing.
A black Jaguars coach had also been refused entry to the venue’s public toilets.
Speaking for the first time since the incident, Khetha Mabaso, the Jaguars chairman, said he had been called by someone he suspected was a parent of a Richards Bay club player, “a k***** who does not belong in the game of rugby”.
The same man had attacked the injured Jaguars prop.
Mabaso said he would send a letter to the rugby union today to request that it review the sentence.
he would appeal the sanction if he had to.
“We are disappointed at this outcome. The sentence does not fit the crime and it sends out the wrong message that you can call someone a k***** and only forfeit one home game,” Mabaso said last night.
He said he had reported the racism incident to Richards Bay Rugby Club officials, but they failed to take action against the individuals.
Mabaso said he could have retaliated when he was insulted by the man, but chose to report the incident.
However, the lack of action by the rival team’s officials left him shocked and dismayed, he said.
The Richards Bay rugby club chairman, Desmond Hibbert, who had dismissed any wrongdoing as “hearsay” last week, said on Tuesday that his club would also appeal the rugby union’s decision.
He said it was unfortunate that his whole club had to be punished for the “callousness” of one spectator.
When asked to respond to the racism incident, Hibbert hung up and did not answer further calls.
Mabaso said the incident and sentencing belittled what black people stood for in rugby.
He said that one of the Richards Bay club players had come to apologise to the team when they left for Durban.
The hearing took place in Richards Bay on Wednesday last week, after several postponements, and was chaired by advocate Junior Makhoba with both clubs’ chairmen present. The outcome was released on Tuesday.
A report released by the union also stated that the Richards Bay club had to introduce a scholarship programme twice a season, with the following outcomes:
* Supporters and club officials to be sensitised towards referees, opposing teams and their supporters;
* Supporters who breach the rugby union’s code of conduct to be removed from the stadium by authorised club officials;
* The rugby union’s code of conduct to be printed in the match programme or handed to supporters;
* Senior club officials to address spectators regularly regarding their behaviour.
Mabaso anticipates that his team will now be ridiculed as “cry babies” for crying racism, but he said they were not.
“People will tell us racism is an old thing, it is not an old thing,” he said. “These things happen and we hope that this (racial abuse) will stop. We have to fight it.”
Last year, the Jaguars were docked four points by the rugby union for walking off a match marred by horrendous refereeing decisions, he said.
Makhoba, the hearing chairman, said it was regrettable that the incident had occurred, but said the hearing went well.
“Beyond everything, we do not condone what has happened,” he said.
“We hope it will be a lesson and hope it will be prevented in future.” – Cadet News Agency.