The seventh round of the Varsity Cup competition was interrupted by protesters storming the field whilst throwing chairs, which forced an end to the match. The players were led off the field.
Maties faced Madibaz (NMU) on Monday evening at the NMU Stadium.
According to The HeraldLIVE the disruption happened after protesters allegedly tried to invade one of the VIP boxes where the Southern Kings head coach Deon Davids was sitting.
One of the protesters reportedly grabbed the microphone and said that black players were not being fairly represented after shouting “Viva Viva”.
Marisa Calvert, head of PR for Varsity Sports, said that Varsity Cup adheres to the quota regulations that have been set out by the South African Rugby Union (SARU).
The match was stopped eight minutes into the second half, whilst Maties was on the attack and in the lead, 0–19. The Varsity Cup organisers released a statement about the incident and explained that, in accordance with the rules, Maties was declared the winner when the game was stopped, because they were in the lead.
Duister Bosman, CEO of Varsity Cup, explained in the statement that they consider this as an “isolated incident”, that is being addressed by the Nelson Mandela University (NMU).
“We also want to emphasise that security measures at all FNB Varsity Cup matches are of paramount importance,” said Bosman.
The protests were reportedly led by South African Students Congress (SASCO) students at NMU. SASCO leaders from NMU could not be reached for comment.
Maxwell Mlangeni, chairperson of SASCO Stellenbosch, said that what is happening at NMU is specific to their context and not a reflection of the organisation as a whole.
“Generally SASCO students are well behaved,” explained Mlangeni.
When asked whether the SASCO Stellenbosch students share the same sentiments as their NMU counterparts, he said that he couldn’t say, because the situations aren’t the same. He said that it was an “institutional thing”.
“We can’t say that it was only SASCO members, they were NMU students,” said Mlangeni.
According to information that Mlangeni received, the protests were not planned beforehand, but were triggered by alleged racism. However, according to Niel Oelofse, Maties Rugby captain, they were warned before the match that protests could take place.
Oelofse said that only he and the management knew, because they did not want to disrupt the players’ focus, since it was such an important match.
“[When the protest broke out], the first thing on my mind was the impact it would have. We only needed one more log point to cement a home final,” explained Oelofse. He added that he felt frustrated and angered.
“This is something you wish you did not have to experience.”
Maties has already cemented a home semi-final, but since they have a bye in round eight, it gives other teams, such as North-West University (NWU) who is second on the log a chance to catch up.
Maties is still at the top of the log, with 31 points.