Rugby players in shock after on-field drama

By Karen Breytenbach and Sapa

Riaan Loots was chosen as captain of the Boland B rugby team, but before he could hear the good news he was declared brain dead after being beaten and kicked in the head during a rugby match.

The incident has been strongly condemned by the Boland Rugby Union.

Loots, 24, a flyhalf for Rawsonville Rugby Club, was pummelled by an opponent from Delicious Rugby Club in Ceres at the end of a match in Rawsonville on Friday. Ceres lost 23-6.

Rawsonville chairperson DP Spangenberg ran onto the field to break up the fight.

Spectators watched in horror.

"The whole team is very shocked and needs counselling," said Rawsonville rugby club president Piet du Toit.

The club has laid criminal charges with the Rawsonville police.

The beating follows a similar incident in 2004, when a Ceres player punched Rawsonville's coach, bursting his eardrum.

Boland police spokesperson Randall Stoffels said a case of assault with an intent to do grievous bodily harm would be changed to murder when the doctors switched off Loots's life-support equipment.

Worcester Medi-Clinic doctor Christo van Dyk declared Loots brain dead on Sunday.

His family has decided to donate his organs.

Rugby players and organisers from across the Boland, as well as 30 Rawsonville locals, gathered in the talented young player's hospital room on Sunday to offer support and prayers to Loots's shattered family, friends and team-mates.

"He looks so beautiful as he's lying here," the young player's father, Willie Loots, said.

"From the outside nothing seems to be wrong with him, it's on the inside that he's hurt.

"We have such a beautiful family portrait, a father, mother and three beautiful boys, and now one is gone. It's terrible."

His son had shown talent since playing for the Wesbank Primary School in Oudtshoorn and Strand High School, Loots sen said. After matriculating, Loots played for Maties U-19 A1 and U-20 A1 while studying for a BComm.

He later played Super A-league for the rugby clubs NTK Parow and Helderberg and worked as a personal trainer.

Loots jun took up golf a month ago and won his first tournament on Wednesday. He was to have made his debut with the Boland B team in Wellington next Saturday.

"Maybe his death has a purpose," said Loots sen.

"Maybe it will help to clean up the game he lived for."

Jack Abrahams, chairperson of the Boland Rugby Union, said: "It's not an incident we can feel proud of.

"I'm personally upset. We'll definitely investigate. We're bound to. It's just too shocking."

Abrahams said all rugby clubs in the Boland had to sign a code of conduct at the beginning of each year and were responsible for enforcing discipline.

The union's official position will be announced after an executive meeting at 8am on Monday.

The chairman of Delicious, Bennie Leenders, could not be reached for comment.

Loots is also survived by his mother, Lana, his brothers Wimpie and Christiaan.

He leaves his girlfriend, Lizandra Nel.



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