San Diego: Ex-natal prop dies in coma after trying to stop fight

2013-04-23 00:00

FORMER Natal rugby player Graham “Basher” Downes died yesterday morning from injuries suffered in a fight in San Diego in the United States.

Downes, a prop in his heyday, was allegedly beaten into a coma after attempting to intervene in a fight between two of his employees.

He had moved to the U.S. in 1986 and was an architect and developer who remodelled the Hotel La Jolla and designed the Sauvage swimwear shop, San Diego media reported.

He played 44 games for Natal from 1983 to 1985, and was part of the team that went all the way to the Currie Cup final in 1984, only to be beaten by Western Province at Newlands.

He also played rugby for the USA.

Back home, team-mate Rob Hankinson, who used to pack down in the scrum at hooker said he was saddened by Downesseath.

“He was a real rugby man and he always put the team first,” Hankinson told The Witness.

“Rugby was a real part of his life right up until the end.

“He had even put together the KwaZulu-Natal Old Crocks Rugby side in San Diego.”

Hankinson said it was unfortunate that Downes never became a Springbok, but was passionate about the game.

“We were a very small front row, but we held our own against the big guys,” he added.

KZN Rugby Union CEO Pete Smith said the union was saddened by news of Downes’s death.

On the KwaZulu-Natal Old Crocks’ Facebook page, people posted messages following his passing.

“RIP Basher. Such a very sad day and thank you for sharing your fun. I was proud to take to the field with you,” wrote Graham Tweed.

“Out prayers are with our great friend Graham Downes. Be strong Bash,” Warren van Zyl wrote.

Higinio Salgado (31), an employee of Downes, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

• lunga.biyela@witness,co.za

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