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Cape Town - Club rugby violence, which has long marred the sport in the Western Cape, erupted again at the weekend when matches between Primrose and False Bay turned ugly, one ending in an on-field punch-up and the other seeing a player hit in the face with a bottle.
Western Province Rugby said on Saturday night they were aware of the incidents and would investigate over the coming days.
“We are aware of a scuffle which took place (on Friday night), and some unruly spectator behaviour, but we are awaiting reports from both teams before we comment,” WP Rugby spokesman Howard Kahn said.
The two clubs faced each other in the under-20 and senior divisions on Friday night at the Constantia Sport Complex, home of False Bay rugby club. Reports were that the atmosphere was tense throughout, with racial slurs allegedly being traded among the spectators and even also between the players themselves.
Primrose had, ahead of the matches, requested several postponements due to issues including lighting and drainage problems at their Rosmead home ground, and the delay associated with the Muslim holy month of fasting, Ramadaan.
On Friday, when they finally met, the U20 match was called off in the second half after a spectator hit one of the Primrose players in the face with a bottle, and the crowd stormed the field.
Nadeem Mackenzie, coach of the Primrose U20 side, said he was unable to say whether it was a False Bay or Primrose supporter who hit a player.
“I didn’t see it, but one of our players tackled one of the False Bay players out by the (touch)line, and that’s when he was hit with the bottle,” Mackenzie said. “The spectators became very aggressive towards each other, and as the drama escalated, they stormed the field.”
The match was called off after officials decided they were not in a position to control the crowds.
Mike Kros, False Bay director of rugby, told Weekend Argus last night that an emergency meeting had been held to discuss the incidents.
“We also received reports of the bottle incident, However, we heard it was a Primrose supporter who was drunk and assaulted the boy with a bottle. No one can say for sure what happened but we will be investigating the matter between now and Monday.”
The later seniors game in Super League B, which False Bay won 20-7, looked set to go ahead without incident. But as the players shook hands, one of the players allegedly threw a punch which nearly escalated into a full-scale brawl, forcing officials from both teams to step in.
Kros said they were considering filing assault charges, but would first view footage recorded on cellphones.
“The boy’s father ran on to the pitch to try and intervene. Then all the spectators ran on to the field and a few more punches were exchanged. There was a stand-off between the players, but officials from both sides stopped before anything more serious could happen. But the entire incident has left a bad taste in our mouth,” he said.
Faaghier Gamieldien, chairman of the Primrose Rugby Club, downplayed the events, saying he was not aware of any physical altercation.
“I cannot say whether or not a fight broke out, but there was definitely a heated exchange between the teams and respective supporters. Officials from both sides separated the players before anything serious occurred. But what I can say is that several players and supporters from False Bay tried to provoke members and supporters of my team.”
UCT rugby coach Kevin Musikanth said he understood that fans sometimes got passionate, but condemned any sort of violence.
“Spectators should not be on the field, it is for the players. It can be disappointing when the team you support loses, but attacking anyone because of it is wrong,” he said.
Western Province has long struggled with violence in club rugby, which even saw the death of Rawsonville flyhalf Riaan Loots during a match in 2006.
Former Delicious Rugby Club player Benjamin Zimri was convicted of culpable homicide after a court found that he had assaulted Loots during a match.
A court found that Zimri had swung a stiff arm at Loots’s throat area, and Loots had fallen backwards before Zimri kicked Loots in the head.
Also in 2006, the Western Province Rugby Union disciplinary panel suspended the entire U20 Collegians and Cape Town Harlequins teams after a mass brawl, and reported incidents of foul play in a clash between the two sides.