Louis: “I know all about racism”

2018-06-28 06:00
Louis Mzomba refereeing the match between the Blue Bulls and Natal Wildebeests.PHOTO: gallo images

Louis Mzomba refereeing the match between the Blue Bulls and Natal Wildebeests.PHOTO: gallo images

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With Super rugby back on our televisions, couch potatoes and so-called experts will scrutinize each and every decision the referee makes.

The Ashwin Willemse incident on live television still leaves viewers with questions about racism but Louis Mzomba from Nyanga said he can relate to both.

Louis and the late Carl Spannenberg of Bellville, was one of the first non-white referees who experienced this heat first hand in the mid-90s.

“I became a ref in 1996 after my playing career for the South African Rugby Association, also known as the Leopards, and Lagunya and retired in 2007 as a professional referee. I became a specialist assistant ref and television match official between 2007 and 2011. During the same period I was the National Academy Coach for refs and became the WP referees coach in 2012,” Louis said.

His first big match was between the Sharks and the Falcons and it was a televised game.

“Gary Teichman was the captain of the Sharks and the team was coached by Ian Macintosh. Andy Turner was appointed as the ref and I was running the touch. Within ten minutes of the televised game Andy was injured and I had to take over and officiate between the four lines.

“I remember it vividly as I had to man up against big pressure from Gary inside the field and also handle the off the field pressure from Ian. After the game I had to endure the unfair criticism from Guy Kebble who was commentating on Supersport, who argued each and every decision I made,” Louis said.

Carl was a pillar of strength when they refereed in the elite rugby competition in South Africa.

“I had a language barrier (Afrikaans) during my rugby refereeing career as most people didn’t want to accommodate me and speak English in meetings and workshops. Carl would come to my rescue and interpret for me.

“It was not easy as in the mid-90s the white people thought that they owned rugby. Subsequently I suffered criticism from colleagues, players, rugby coaches, referee’s assessors and rugby commentators.

“In 2005 I led a black referees strike trying to expose racism in rugby,” Louis said.

According to him black referees were not given equal opportunities compared to their white counter parts.

“I was on the national television proclaiming that racism is naked in SA Rugby and I was summoned to a disciplinary hearing for bringing SA Rugby into disrepute.

“I won the case because I did prove to them that we don’t receive equal opportunities. I became unpopular in white circles in rugby but I don’t regret what I did because I paved the way for many black referees like Rasta Rasivenge and others,” he said.

The difference between his time as a ref and now is that they make too much use of technology.

“The refs don’t have conviction of making big calls. The human factor is slowly diminishing. I will encourage retired players to take up the whistle as they will extend their rugby career and also contribute immensely to the development of the game. Egon Seconds is the testimony of great success,” Louis said.

One of the people who played a major role in his rugby career is Norman Mbiko.

“He introduced me to rugby at an early age when I was 12 years old. Norman is arguably one of the best scrumhalfs this country has ever seen. Also being a scrumhalf he coached me throughout my playing career and he deserves the credit for all the accolades I received in rugby.

“I also appreciate the contribution of stalwarts of the game I love dearly, they are Solomon Pudumo, Thompson Magxala, Nqweniso Maneli, Gerald Njengele, Ben Theron, Freek Burger, Ian Kirkpatrick and Mike Stofile,” he said.

His late father, Skhoma Mzomba, his mother Lulu and his wife Nokhaya were always supporting him through thick and thin.

Teams he presented prior to unification are: u.19 WP Project (captain) and his team mate was Justin Swart; u.19 SA Project captain to the Craven Week and his most difficult opponent was Gerald Scholtz of the WP League (Federation); u.19 SA Nampak Schools with Chester Williams and Tinus Linee; Flying Eagles (captain), WP Rugby Association (captain) and SARA (Leopards) and his most feared opponent was Gerrit Swart (flyhalf) of Winelands.

Teams he represented after unification were: Captain of Lagunya and he played with Dodo Tyhalibongo and Melvin Mbiko; WP Development (captain) with Dale Santon; WP B (understudy of Gerald Scholtz) and SA Development Team.

“I also coached the juniors of Lagunya and at Nomlinganiselo Primary from 1993 to 2012. Players that I coached are Luvuyo Magqazolo (SA Schools); Thobela Ngonyoza (WP u.20); Tazz Fuzani (WP, EP and Pumas) and the Springbok Sikhumbuzo Notshe. The past 25 years I am teaching at Ikhusi Primary in Khayelithsha,” Louis said.

His only regret as a player is that he was not exposed to the non-racial sport of Saru who played under the Sacos banner and only playing under the banner of the South African Rugby Board of the late Doc Danie Craven­.

“What can still be done to improve rugby in our communities is financial support to clubs. Clubs would have the muscle to broaden their pool of players by adopting nearby schools into their ranks. There should also be a healthy relationship between the municipalities and the mother union for easy access to facilities.

“The mother body (WP) should ensure that players receive quality coaching to curb catastrophic injuries and we should encourage players and companies to associate beyond the colour bar. Not much is happening in the township and the mother union should promote rugby vigorously at school level,” he advised.

Highlights of his refereeing career are so many to single out any, but he is proud about his first international match in 2001 between Swaziland and Madagascar.

“In 2004 I was the Referee of the Year of WP and in 2007 I refereed the Africa Cup final between Zimbabwe and Kenya in Reunion, also the curtain call on my refereeing career.

“In the same year I was the assistant-referee in the Currie Cup final between the Lions and the Free State.

“I refereed ten international tests for the IRB and five unofficial tests. Other teams that I refereed are New Zealand vs Wales in the Malaysian 7’s; the inauguration u.21 World Cup match between Argentina and Ireland in Buenos Aires; WP Super League A matches between Maties and Ikeys, Northerns vs Tygerberg and Tygerberg vs Maties; Currie Cup matches between the Lions vs EP, Sharks vs Falcons and Lions vs Free State,” Louis said.

He plays tennis to keep fit and likes reading, he says.

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