Referee Dave McHugh admitted he was feeling "a bit shook" after having his shoulder dislocated by a disgruntled Springbok fan at Durban's Kings Park on Saturday.
Burly Pieter van Zyl of Potchefstroom appeared in the Durban magistrate's court yesterday on charges of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. He was not asked to plead.Van Zyl was released on bail of 3,000 Rand (275)and ordered to appear on September 9. "We're satisfied that the legal process is underway, and we now need to look at how we're going to make sure Van Zyl does not attend another match in South Africa," a SARFU spokesman said. He added that McHugh is willing to return to South Africa for the trial. "We commend David McHugh for the stance he has taken in this matter."
Van Zyl, a burly 42 year old, scaled the perimeter area apparently unseen by security personnel and crashed into McHugh as the Cork man set a scrum early in the second half. Players attempted to separate the pair but not before McHugh fell awkwardly under his assailant, dislocating his shoulder. SARFU managing director Rian Oberholzer said: "This assault has done the image of South African rugby serious harm. "It perpetuates the image of the boorish, boerewors (hotdog) eating, brandy drinking supporter when, in fact, our supporters are highly intelligent with a keen understanding of the game." Oberholzer said officials were taking steps to ensure a life ban from rugby matches in the country would be enforced against the fan.
Van Zyl was quoted in South African newspapers as saying he was tired with the way South African teams were treated by referees. The Springboks conceded a penalty try and had a try of their own disallowed for obstruction before the assault. "Referees around the world think they are bigger than the game and they're not," Van Zyl said. "Fans like me is what rugby is about. "The whole of (the) stadium was 'mal' (angry) with him (McHugh). It's just that I decided to do something about it." In the meantime, a leading Australian rugby official has said the World Cup hosts will reassess their security plans following Saturday's incident in Durban. Australia rugby coach Eddie Jones has expressed concern about the security of the referee for the deciding Tri Nations match between the Wallabies and South Africa on August 17.
"How a guy gets to run on the field and gets to a scrum without been pulled off is beyond comprehension and we'd like to see those sort of things addressed," Jones commented yesterday. "It is a growing concern that we're getting this unruly behaviour at rugby games and what we've got to do is legislate against it." Van Zyl's sister, who would not reveal her first name, said he was usually "a very calm guy and wouldn't hurt a fly". The incident was labelled the "ugliest moment in South African rugby history" by the South African media. The Sunday Tribune's front page banner read: "You Scumbag".