Johannesburg - The defence in the trial against the former Parktown Boys water polo coach, Collan Rex, put it to the first State witness that he was merely playing with the boys and not trying to kill them.
During proceedings on Tuesday at the High Court sitting in the Palm Ridge Magistrate's Court, State prosecutor Arveena Persad called the first witness, a 17-year-old who is currently at college but was a learner at Parktown Boys in 2015 and 2016 when he was a boarder that Rex admitted to sexually assaulting.
"Do you know Collan Rex?" Persad asked.
"He was my water polo coach and hostel master...in 2016," the boy responded.
The boy told the court that he recalled Rex dry humping him and touching his private parts.
"Is there anything else the accused did to you?" Persad asked.
"He choked me.. he would put me in a head-lock." The witness then demonstrated to the court how he was choked.
The boy said on multiple occasions Rex would come into their rooms after a study session and wrestle with some of the boys.
He said when the other boys would see that he couldn't manage to fight Rex off, then he would stop. He said this happened around 10 times in 2016, when he was in Grade 9.
The boy said he remembered the incidents happening in the dorm rooms and on one occasion in the water polo ballroom where Rex closed the door behind him and wrestled him to a point where he couldn't breathe.
Persard then asked the 17-year-old about a video that was taken.
"We were going to a water polo club match and waiting in the hostel's relaxing room and Rex started wrestling us, he dragged another boy to another room but I'm not sure what happened after that."
"He kicked another boy in the chest and lying with us touching our genitals."
The boy added that at a tournament in Durban, Rex went into the shower with a boy.
Defence lawyer William Robertse questioned the boy about the circumstances that led to Rex putting him in a headlock.
"Were you playing with one another or he had a squabble with you?"
"It was not a fight, he just picked you randomly," the boy responded.
The boy told the court that at some point he had had a close relationship with Rex until things changed.
Robertse asked him why he didn't ask why he was being choked.
"I was scared of him. He led us to believe that it was normal. We saw him as one of our friends."
Robertse then put it to the boy that it was not Rex's intention to try and kill him.
Judge Peet Johnson asked the boy how Rex made him believe that it was normal to try kill him.
"In the dorm, the wrestling was playful but Rex brought aggression to it."
Robertse read a statement from another boy that stated that it became a routine that Rex would come to them when he was on duty and it became a norm for them to wrestle each other and it didn't bug anyone unless it was someone who had not experienced what Rex was doing.
The statement further stated that it was only an issue to someone who was new to the wrestling, yet it was normal to the rest of the boys.
Robertse further put it to the boy that Rex was just playing with them.
"I don't know because he would choke us until we couldn't breathe."