A MAJOR row is brewing in Eastern Province rugby after a mass brawl during a clash between the Eastern Province Kings Vodacom Cup team and national Community Cup champions Despatch at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.
A fist fight involving several players erupted in the final moments after Despatch scored a late try to level the score at 22-22 in a match played as a curtain-raiser to the Southern Kings versus the Lions Super Rugby friendly.
Concerned Despatch president Willem Oliphant made his way onto the side of the field to try to restore calm as the blows rained down in front of referee Rodney Boneparte after tempers boiled over among the angry players.
The game between a young Kings team and a more experienced Despatch team was arranged to prepare the sides for the new season.
"What happened at the end was disgusting and I will be taking matters further. We have the incident on video," acting Southern Kings coach and Eastern Province Academy manager Robbie Kempson said.
"I think the referee and his adjudicators were pathetic. I do not know why they are reffing. There should have been a red card for the punch on 18-year-old Kings player Tyler Paul," said Kempson, a former Springbok prop.
Oliphant disagreed: "I do not think this matter needs to be taken further. It happened at the end of a good game and players from both sides were involved. These things happen in rugby. At the end there was a good vibe and all the players shook hands."
Eastern Province Kings coach and former Blitz Boks star Mzwandile Stick was also on the field after the game to talk to his players.
After a tight match, sparks flew when Despatch hooker Bobby Dyer dived over to level the scores right at the end of the match. Chaos then erupted as a brawl involving several players took place in front of fans.
"The referee did nothing and the way the officials handled the game created the fight more than anyone. I will look at the video and something will be lodged. I do not care if they are local boys. I do not think that behaviour should be in rugby," Kempson said.
"When it started the officials did not bother to get involved. You had an 18-year-old against men. The refs are there to protect the players and they did not do that. For an 18-year-old to get punched right in front of the referee and nothing happens is absolutely despicable.
"The reason we brought the game here was because last year when we played at Despatch there was so much going on and the referee did nothing.
"I said to our CE if they want to play, they can play at the stadium where they should be protected."