Celebration chaos halts rugby final

Match to be rescheduled after pitch invasion

Eastern Province Rugby’s Saru administrator, Monde Tabata, says a concerted effort will be made to prevent a repeat of the chaotic crowd scenes which led to the Grand Challenge rugby final being called off on Saturday.

A celebratory pitch invasion by a large section of the crowd at Kemsley Park after the main curtain-raiser resulted in Saru referee Rodney Bonaparte calling the showpiece off before it even started because “Boksmart” regulations were not being adhered to. At no stage was there any violent behaviour.

Gardens were meant to play Harlequins in an eagerly anticipated marquee final at Wolfson Stadium at 3.30pm.

But according to officials, the waterlogged, more secure Kwazakhele venue was deemed unfit for play and a late decision was taken on Saturday morning to play the match at Kemsley Park.

Later, experienced referee Bonaparte deemed the conditions unsafe to continue after the crowd invaded the field when Despatch Ooste like defeated United Barbarians (Easterns) in the Grand Challenge Shield final.

“The referee said he wasn’t going to officiate the match, due to the safety of the players, and also the safety of the spectators because there were children around, and people were freely consuming alcohol,” a PE Metro sub-union official, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

Tabata said yesterday talks would be held to improve the situation ahead of the rescheduled date which was not yet confirmed.

“The important thing is by tomorrow [today] we will have a solution.”

Tabata said nothing had been wrong with the decision that was taken as it had been very well thought out, and it was better to be wise than sorry.

“We will find a solution to this and we have informed both of the clubs that we should be reaching a solution soon,” he said.

Gardens and Harlequins officials were less than impressed.

“That was poor planning from EP,” Gardens’ manager Andries Mkutu said. “Everything was set up poorly.

“There were a lot of things I was not happy about.”

One was that clubs should play finals at venues according to a team’s position on the log, but this had not happened.

“They [EP] took away our advantage and moved it to New Brighton, but nobody went there to have a look at the field’s condition,” Mkutu said.

“Four teams were supposed to play finals on that field, but nobody went even to look at it.

“The field was wet and there were no poles.”

Harlequins’ team manager, Elroy Lindoor, was also upset.

“It was up to EP to provide the right barricading because it was very unsafe to play the match on that field, due to the crowd attendance,” Lindoor said yesterday.

“Also, the field was not really safe, in my view, for such a highlevel match.

“When we arrived at Wolfson Stadium on Saturday morning, we were told that the game had been moved,” Lindoor said.

“There were no posts on the field so EP decided to shift the game to Kemsley Park.

“There were many of us that had to take time off from work.

“And unfortunately they will have to do it again, whenever we play. We are still waiting for confirmation from EP as to when we will be playing,” Lindoor said.

The final was scheduled to start at 3.30pm but by 4.30pm officials were still trying to clear the field of spectators.