The 20th Mauritz Hansen Rugby Week, in which 90 teams take part in five categories, was spoilt this year by the action of one player - a member of the Hans Strijdom school team from Mookgophong (Naboomspruit) in Limpopo. The schoolboy player, already guilty of foul play, assaulted the referee and knocked him unconscious.
The referee, Chris de Beer, a 37-year-old sales representative, has laid a charge of assault with the police and is to institute proceedings against the 17-year-old player.
The player was in trouble two minutes before the end of the match between Hans Strijdom and Alberton after head-butting an opponent and the referee had showed him a red card for the offence. The player went off and at the end of the match the referee went towards him to make sure of his number as he needed it for his match report. The player grabbed the referee high on his front, told him that he had referee poorly ('kak geblaas') and head-butted him, striking his cheek. The referee was unconscious for some time and was treated by paramedics.
The referee has been a member of the Blue Bulls Referees' Society since 1995, regarded by them as a steady, first league referee. He has refereed at the Mauritz Hansen Week for some years, chosen to referee the final for four years. De Beer recovered from the attack and five hours later refereed the final on this occasion as well.
The player, who may not be named as he is a youth, later appeared before a disciplinary committee and has been suspended for the rest of the year.
De Beer said afterwards: "It was an extremely disappointing incident but I ma not going to giver up refereeing because of it. I do hope that the guilty player will be given a suitable punishment, because no referee deserves to be assaulted on the field.
"I was also bitterly disappointed by the actions of the school and its organisers. Their principal came to me only just before the final match to find out if I was all right."
Kosie Horn, a development officer at the Blue Bulls who was a provincial referee in his day and then the manager of the Blue Bulls' referees, said: "Such incidents cannot be tolerated. We are involved in a nonstop battle to get new referees, because, more and more, referees are giving up because of the emotional assaults they have to endure from parents, teachers and players."
The Blue Bulls Schools Union is expected to make a statement about the incident on Tuesday.
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