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Ref Quits After Being Knocked Down Unconscious In Rugby Match

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Cape Town - A Boland rugby ref says he’s had it with officiating after a player of the Tulbagh rugby club knocked him unconscious on Saturday.

Piet Swartz, who has been a referee for more than 10 years, can’t remember much, other than someone hitting him with the fist from behind. He was unconscious for a short while.

“I thought the game had been played in good spirits. I definitely didn’t expect it, because there had been no altercations during the match.”

Tulbagh lost the match 7-13 to Bella Vista.

Swartz said one of the backs earlier had made negative comments about him. When he and the two assistant referees walked off the field after the match, the player attacked him.

“I felt good about the match. I must have been very bad to deserve that kind of behaviour. I don’t feel like refereeing anymore. Normally people shake hands after a match, but Saturday was different,” he said.  

His nose and jaw hurt, but he didn’t sustain any serious injuries.

It’s the second time that a player has attacked him, Swartz said. “The previous incident was at Ceres and that player was suspended.”

Swartz is considering reporting the matter to the police, but doesn’t feel like the schlep.

Denzil Sauls, the chair of the Tulbagh rugby club, has confirmed that one of their players was involved in the incident.

“We have decided not to comment and leave it in the hands of the Boland Rugby Union. We’ll just wait for their report as to what happens next,” said Sauls.

Ivan Pekeur, the president of the Boland Rugby Union, said he’d probably have to wait until Wednesday for the report, after which it will be referred to an independent committee. The committee, which consists of two magistrates and two executive board members, have to hold a disciplinary hearing within two weeks.

Pekeur said in his experience of disciplinary committees, the player is normally suspended for life.

“I am not involved in the disciplinary process myself, but I know that several factors have to be taken into account. I don’t know what the result is going to be in this specific case.”

He said thuggery should not be allowed in rugby.

“We arrange rugby matches in an attempt to involve the whole family. Parents should be able to bring their families along without fears that adults will become involved in stone throwing, stabbing or fighting.

“The matches are being arranged with the purpose of bringing people together and incidents such as this is sending out the wrong message. It is a pity that the isolated incident had happened at one of our top rugby clubs in the league. One would expect these players to set an example for the rest.”

Pekeur said there hadn’t been problems with the club in the past and most of the clubs support the union’s code of conduct.

“It is a very difficult situation, because rugby is a unifying factor in a small community.”

It gives residents something to do over weekend and presents young, talented players with the opportunity to forge a career in the sport. “Rugby should never be used as a platform for violence,” he said.   

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