Eben Etzebeth: Langebaan assault docket ready for NPA

Eben Etzebeth (Gallo)
Eben Etzebeth (Gallo)

A docket containing statements regarding two counts of assault against Springbok forward Eben Etzebeth has been handed to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Rapport reported on Sunday. 

The docket was reportedly initially sent back for further investigation, but this has been completed and the NPA will on Monday proceed to decide whether Etzebeth should be prosecuted.

This follows allegations that Etzebeth and a large group of friends had reportedly used a racially loaded word against someone in a pub in Langebaan last weekend.

Etzebeth was reportedly harassed by a group of people at a nearby table who taunted him, saying he was a "shitty" rugby player. 

A scuffle allegedly broke out between the two groups. 

Completely untrue

Etzebeth responded to the allegations on his Facebook page by saying: "It is completely untrue and unfounded to claim that I physically or racially abused anyone in Langebaan as has been reported on social media. Multiple witnesses can corroborate that.

"I am and will always strive to be a true ambassador to this beautiful rainbow nation and the sport that I love," he said.

Etzebeth on Friday met with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) following the alleged assault. SAHRC commissioner André Gaum said it first had to consider what emerged from statements and consultations.

Etzebeth has since left for Japan with the rest of the Springbok squad in preparation of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. 

According to Rapport, SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux told Etzebeth that should the allegations be true, he would have to withdraw from the World Cup squad. And, if it turns out he lied about the events, he would never play for the Springboks again. 

Accusations against Etzebeth included a video doing the rounds suggesting the 27-year-old lock had assaulted and pointed a gun at a homeless man in the West Coast town, Sport24 reported. 

In addition, Enver Wils­nach, 42, and Shiyaad Smith, 21, have alleged that Etzebeth assaulted them by striking them in the face with a firearm, Rapport reported. 

Etzebeth and around "12-15" people arrived at popular Langebaan watering hole Die Watergat at around 23:00 on August 24, pub owner Riaan Reeders told Sport24. 

An incident inside the bar then took place at around midnight, which saw one man involved in a scuffle in the upstairs section of the bar with certain members of Etzebeth's party. 

That incident, Reeders said, resulted in the man who was removed from the premises opening a police case against members of the group. 

Reeders said he had examined the CCTV footage from the incident inside his bar, and that Etzebeth had not been involved in the scuffle.

Etzebeth and his friends then left the pub at around 02:00 on Sunday and were then involved in another incident that took place in the streets.  

"At around 02:00, Eben and his friends left, and then there was a group of people at the centre across the road from us," Reeders told Sport24 on Monday morning. 

"Something happened there… I'm not sure what happened with the fighting, or whatever, with the Etzebeths. I wasn't there and I can't tell you what happened."

Racial slurs

According to Rapport, Wilsnach and Smith allege that they were approached by Etzebeth who hurled racial slurs at them. A rock or brick was reportedly then thrown at Etzebeth's car, which triggered the alleged assault. 

SA Rugby in a statement confirmed that they would co-operate with authorities in the investigation into the incident, but said that Etzebeth would remain a part of the national plans until they were instructed otherwise. 

After announcing his squad, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus dismissed the Etzebeth reports as just "a rumour" at this stage. 

"I was definitely worried about it when I heard about it, of course," he said.

"If there was any truth in it, it would have been a massive issue for us.

"After speaking to Eben and hearing his side of the story, there is obviously trust between a coach and a player.

"I must trust him to do some stuff on the field for me and win Test matches for us, and he must trust me to believe him when he tells me something.

"I'm pretty comfortable with what he's told me and obviously you can't just believe what someone else says on social media.

"I'm confident that that's not the truth what was said on social media and if anything like that happens and it is the truth, then somebody like that would not be part of our team and would not go to the World Cup.

"Until something like that gets proven, it's just a rumour in my opinion."

Etzebeth (27) has 78 Test caps to his name and is set to feature in his second Rugby World Cup having also represented the Boks at the 2015 showpiece in England. 

- Compiled by Riaan Grobler

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