School sport: Referee taunted as ugly incident mars Hilton College-DHS rugby game

2008-05-12 00:00

An ugly row, allegedly involving racial taunts aimed at the referee by supporters of Durban High School (DHS), almost brought the school’s rugby match against home team Hilton College to a premature end at the weekend.

The match ended in a 5-5 draw, although referee Kamal Rugbar insists that Hilton won the game 7-5.

His position was endorsed by the committee of the local Referees’ Society, which said after a meeting last night: "The official result of the DHS-Hilton match was 7-5 to Hilton. We as a society are extremely concerned about the derogatory and racist comments levelled at our referee and we will be taking the matter further."

The incident took place after Hilton scored a try to level the scores 5-5. There was some confusion about whether the conversion was successful, with one touch judge waving the kick away and the other lifting his flag. It is the referee’s decision whether a kick is over or not. Rugbar indicated that it was successful, so Hilton College went ahead 7-5.

The decision was hotly and vocally disputed by the vociferous DHS supporters and Rugbar, one of the few qualified Indian rugby referees in South Africa, told The Witness he was racially abused and taunted.

Rugbar threatened to abandon the game, but Hilton College headmaster Dave Lovatt prevailed on him to continue.

When Lovatt, together with the DHS headmaster Dave Magner, went down to the touchline, Lovatt told a DHS parent that he would "have her removed from the ground" if she continued to abuse the referee.

As the attempt to kick the conversion took place, the kicker fell to the ground with cramp and Lovatt was following his removal from the ground by the first aid team, unaware that there was a dispute with the kick, as he assumed it had missed. He therefore sent a pupil to change the score and the scoreboard reverted to 5-5, but Rugbar was upset, saying yesterday "my decision had been undermined".

His official referee’s scorecard reads Hilton College 7 DHS 5.

When DHS headmaster Magner was contacted yesterday, he said: "My staff who were in the area categorically deny they heard any racist comments being made".

What upset Rugbar was a comment that he claims a DHS coach made, asking why he overruled touch judges and intimating that he shouldn’t be handling such a match.

Tensions were high and Rugbar allegedly got into an argument with supporters close to the touchline.

It was an unfortunate ending to a game in which the decisions he made prior to the incident were not questioned, and, in fact, Lovatt said there were no problems with the ref.

At the end of the match, Rugbar was escorted by security guards, but there were no further incidents.

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