Durban – Robbie Kempson will know his fate on Thursday after being arrested in Bermuda on Tuesday in connection with an off-the-ball incident during a match between the Springbok Legends and the USA at a World Rugby Classic tournament at the weekend.
The former Springbok, Sharks, Stormers and Western Province prop was accused of running into the USA’s Leif Gibson while his back was turned.
Gibson was taken to hospital in a neck brace. It was feared he might not play rugby again.
The former Bok and EP (Eastern Province) Kings coach was arrested after a case was opened by Gibson, according to South African Rugby Legends Association chief executive and Legends player Stefan Terblanche.
The Royal Gazette, a Bermuda news website, said Kempson, 38, was “absolutely shattered” about the serious injury to the American player.
However, Kempson said the incident, which left Gibson with a spinal injury, happened during the course of the game, and “I don’t think it should have gone as far as it has”.
Kempson spent 12 hours in police custody after being arrested over what police described as an “off-ball assault”.
South Africa ended up beating the US 43-10.
Speaking from Bermuda on Wednesday night, Terblanche told The Mercury that Kempson was no longer under arrest, but would have to report to the police station on Thursday.
“We are fully supportive of Rob, he is one of our team members although he will not take part in the semi-final against Argentina.”
Terblanche added that the team would wait for the verdict and take legal advice if necessary.
Kempson was doing fine in the circumstances, he said.
Kempson told The Royal Gazette that he had been released on police bail while a senior prosecutor reviewed the case file.
He would not participate in the rest of the tournament.
“The incident that happened was in the general course of a rugby game. I don’t think it should have gone as far as it has,” he said.
“I feel terrible. It’s an absolute tragedy.Unfortunately, it’s a contact sport and injuries do happen. I have had a back fusion myself and three neck operations so I understand what the player is feeling. It’s a terrible incident that happened and I feel absolutely shattered about it. Hopefully he’s doing better and will be fine when he gets back to the United States,” Kempson said.
He added that the Bermuda Police Service was “outstanding” in the way it handled the incident and he had had a lot of support from his teammates and other players involved in the Classic.
According to the US Eagles team manager, Tim Kluempers, the players were “way off the ball” when Kempson ran into Gibson’s back from behind. He said the tackle was “not necessary”, which is why the incident was reported to the police.
Kluempers feared that Gibson, 34, who was on his first tour with the US team, “will probably never play rugby again”.
Speaking to rugby-talk.com, Kluempers said the injured player decided to approach the police to investigate something that had happened on the field.
Gibson was fitted with a brace and flew home to Houston on Wednesday for further medical attention.
Police appealed for witnesses, specifically anyone with video images, to contact the investigating officer.
Twitter was abuzz with comments relating to Kempson, with many tweets asking for clarity.
Kempson’s teammate in Bermuda, Egon Seconds, tweeted that the issue had been resolved, and that Kempson was back with the team.
“The accusation stunned all of us, but it has been resolved.”
He replied to a tweet saying, “Case has been thrown out, yes.”
Kempson has been in hot water before, and was suspended for four weeks after a 2003 Tri-Nations game against Australia.
Australian vice-captain Toutai Kefu had spinal concussion after being tackled high and late by Kempson.