A schools rugby coach who breached South African Rugby Union (SARU) rules governing under age rugby has been suspended and the points his school took for the match were overturned, following a SARU disciplinary hearing.
The charge was the first brought to SARU under new regulations that were introduced to protect players under the age of 18 at the start of last season.
They stipulate that no player may appear for a team if he is over age or if he is more than two years younger than the maximum stipulated age for that particular age group. In practice the regulations means that in under-13 rugby, for example, only players who are turning 12 or 13 in the year of play can appear. Players, who are 13 at the time of the match, but turning 14 in the same year, would be ineligible. Similarly a player turning 11 in the same year (or younger) would be ineligible.
“The safety of rugby players at all ages is of paramount importance to SARU,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SARU. “These critical regulations were approved and brought into force last year by all 14 member provinces to ensure the safety of players at schoolboy age.
“Prior to their introduction there was the danger of players as young as 14 or 15 playing against boys of 19 with all the inherent risks that that implies.
“These regulations were passed to outlaw that dangerous practice and we will pursue those who breach these regulations.”
Roux said that the rules did allow for the age band to be expanded to a maximum of three years for specific high school players in exceptional circumstances, and only upon official application and approval received by the provincial unions. But those exceptions would only be granted if a number of compulsory criteria were fulfilled on the recommendation of a qualified IRB Level II coach.
“The regulations have required a cultural change at schoolboy rugby level where age may not have been a factor in selection before,” said Roux. “But they have been introduced for the benefit and safety of players.
“Coaches must understand that if they breach these regulations and players are seriously injured as a result that they have potentially laid themselves open not only to SARU’s disciplinary code but also to the criminal courts.
“These are important regulations that we take very seriously.”
The regulations are part of SARU’s BokSmart national rugby safety campaign and can be found in full at http://boksmart.sarugby.co.za/content/boksmart-legislation
In the match in question, players from the De Aar Secondary School were falsely passed off as being Under-17 in a match against Vaalharts Secondary School, when, in fact, they were 18. Mr Jan Botha, the coach responsible, was suspended from all forms of rugby under the jurisdiction of SARU for six months (suspended for one year) and the league points earned by De Aar were forfeited and credited to Vaalharts.