Red-carded school rugby coach denies ‘assault’

2009-06-17 00:00

A RUGBY player from Treverton College was allegedly grabbed by the throat by the opposing coach during the Treverton/Howick schools’ first team match at Howick last Thursday.

Referee Nigel Murray gave the coach his marching orders, but when he retreated to the stands, the official told him to leave the premi­ses altogether.

It is alleged that spectators sprang to the player’s assistance, but Howick first team coach Deon van den Berg said allegations that he assaulted the player are “very far from the truth”.

Van den Berg said some Treverton boys in fact attacked him after he tried to defuse an explosive on-field situation.

“I was standing on the side of the field when two Treverton players tackled my hooker out,” Van den Berg told The Witness yesterday.

“It occurred just two metres away from me and the Treverton number four, who had been niggling my boys the whole match, started fighting with my hooker. The Treverton number four had my hooker on the ground and I grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him off my player.

“Then the Treverton boys came running for me and wanted to attack me,” said Van den Berg.

“There was a whole group of people around me, but at no point was anyone assaulted. If anything, my player was assaulted and my intentions were to defuse the situation, not create a situation.”

Van den Berg said that, in hindsight, he should have pulled his own player away.

“That would have created less hassle, but my hooker had the Treverton number four on top of him and that’s why I pulled him off instead.”

The coach said some Treverton boys then started pushing him around. “I pushed them away but no one was assaulted or punched or anything. I am 100% sure of that, and the video footage my boys have of the incident proves no one got ass­aulted.”

Van den Berg said that “it was nearly 5 pm — nearly dark. There was a bunch of people right next to each other pushing and shoving”, which could account for the impression among people in the stands that an assault had taken place.

Howick headmaster Rob Langley told The Witness on Wednesday that he was watching the match, which was won 26-21 by his school, with Treverton headmaster Graham Nolan, but their view of the actual incident was obscured.

Langley said that, due to the long weekend, the exact details of the matter have not yet been investiga­ted, but that a full report on the incident will be made available today.

He said at the time he apologised verbally to the Treverton headmaster “for being poor hosts”, and to that effect Howick High School had sent a fax to Treverton the day after the match. Langley said there was no truth in the allegation that Van den Berg had been sacked.

Treverton headmaster Graham Nolan was not prepared to comment, but a school spokesperson said the matter has been settled with Howick.

Piet van der Merwe, secretary of the Midlands Rugby Referees’ Society, said referee Murray has been asked to furnish a report on the match by today.

“Nigel [Murray] is a registered referee, and as the matter is under investigation he is not obliged to comment,” Van der Merwe said.

Society chairman Andre Lourens said the matter is viewed in a serious light, particularly after other schoolboy matches over the years have featured unsavoury incidents of this nature. Lourens said he will also require feedback from Howick about the matter.

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