‘We want to play again’ - rugby team
“Rugby is our biggest passion and it keeps us off the streets daily. We will not sit back and let the Western Province Rugby Union (WPRU) take this sport away from us.”
These are the words of a group of rugby players from Violets Rugby Club in Lansdowne, speaking to People’s Post from their club premises in Chucker Road last Wednesday.
The group, who have been banned from playing and competing in any rugby events for one year, after a dispute with another local club last August, claim the ruling brought down on the team is unfair.
“We experienced a dispute between two clubs, one of which was Violets and the other the Villagers Rugby Club. We competed for the last game of the season, when an incident broke out off field, where spectators, players and executives clashed,” explains Zaheer Davids from Violets Rugby Club.
“Criminal charges were laid after the fight for assault on players, and then by the WPRU as well, for bringing the game into disrepute. The other team pleaded guilty and we pleaded not guilty. They paid a R10 000 fine and that was it. But Violets had to go through a disciplinary meeting and were found guilty.”
Violets Club says about four members involved in the fight were given a lifetime ban from rugby activities, meaning they will no longer be able to play, coach or watch a WPRU game.
“To add, the entire Violets Club was also suspended for a year starting from February this year to February 2019. This means we can’t play rugby during this period, and can’t compete in the official rugby league run by the WPRU.
“We then appealed and it cost us thousands of rand which we paid, as we felt the sentence was too strong, for being banned for an incident off field and which never affected the game at all. They also banned all the players from playing for any other club during this period.”
The team, who were set to hear their appeal process on the evening of Wednesday 27 June, were left in shock.
“We had all the communication done via email and calls, and the appeal was set for the mentioned date, with an attorney to process the appeal too. We prepared for the day, and when we showed up, there was nobody present to receive us. Nobody from the WPRU was present, as well as any attorneys.
“Even up until today we haven’t heard from the union. We sent emails and called their offices but still no response. We even got as far as to get an attorney representing the club to go, but nothing.”
“The difficulty of this issue is the longer the delay, the longer the season continues and the more games continue without us. We want the matter sorted as soon as possible. We have players from poor communities that we bus in to play and feed, and which keeps them off the streets. This is not right at all,” he adds.
The WPRU warned that under no circumstances will they (the union) tolerate violence at any club rugby events and such issues are taken extremely seriously. Speaking to People’s Post, Faizal Falton, the senior manager of club rugby at the WPRU, said: “The club knows that there is a process that is currently taking place regarding this issue. We have nothing to do with this process and they need to speak about their issues with the committee dealing with it. The appeal is also currently being discussed and this case is sub judice.”
Falton could not comment any further in this regard.
Yazeed Galant, an attorney working on the case, confirms his clients, Violets Rugby Club, and four of their members that have been found guilty in this matter are part of an appeal matter currently in process.
“I am surprised that WPRU and Faizel Falton invoke the sub judice law to their benefit when they denied my clients the use of sub judice earlier in the first hearing of this matter, to prejudice my clients when there was a criminal case running for the same incident that involved the same people from both side,” he explains.
“My clients were trialed and found guilty without partaking in the matter due to WPRU committee not taking into consideration the sub judice rule when we requested the matter stand down until the criminal matter was concluded.”
Galant advised the club not to partake in the process to protect their evidence and their defence in the criminal matter at court.
He explains Violets took all measures possible on the day of the incident to ensure that all goes well on and off the field.
“All the matches took place with a good clean competitive spirit without any sign of uncontrolled crowd or actions from any Violets players and members to bring the game of rugby into disrepute. They had put extra manpower in place as the players and members from Violets club had worrying concerns after video clips were circulated from Villagers’ players, members, supporters and local celebrities encouraging violence and hate speech against Violets.
“There have been major delays in this matter from WPRU side starting from them only giving us the outcome of the first hearing only more than three months after the case was heard.
“We were promised the outcome decision date that was not met by WPRU more than once and only after making numerous contact with WPRU to release the outcome of the first hearing did we finally get the unfavourable outcome.
“We hope that WPRU can fast track this hearing so that we can bring back the favourite sport of rugby to the community without further delay.”