UKZN rugby chairman Nic Haswell has no issue with the ruling that cleared Pukke for allegedly fielding an ineligible player, but is disappointed by the manner in which the whole process was handled. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Earlier this season, UKZN were docked 12 points for fielding an ineligible player in the Varsity Shield, which ruled them out of the promotion-relegation match for a place in the Varsity Cup.
UKZN were then dragged into the subsequent allegations that Pukke had also fielded an ineligible player, with prop Bart le Roux having played 614 minutes of this year's campaign as a first-year student. However, it was claimed that he had represented UKZN in last year's Varsity Shield as a first-year student.
After a prolonged process of investigation, independent chairperson Advocate Stelzner SC finally ruled in favour of Pukke, who were able to retain their title.
In his findings released on Wednesday, the statement suggested: ‘The CBA course was, properly considered, not a course of UKZN given that it did not form a part of the university’s Programme and Qualification Mix (PQM) as approved by the department of higher education and training, and accordingly did not contain a South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) ID and was not a credit-bearing course.’
Although the statement also sought to clarify that the cases between Pukke and UZKN were different ('In the UKZN case the relevant player’s previous registration as a student at the University of Johannesburg, as well as his failure to make the required academic progress whilst a student there, were uncontested'), many believe UKZN were hard done by.
On Thursday, Haswell told SARugbymag.co.za that they would have to accept the outcome and move on.
‘It’s important to clarify that at no stage did UZKN launch any official complaint about Pukke, and there was never any problem with Bart or the Varsity Cup organisers. We were simply dragged into it because Bart was a student here.
‘The case related to our player certainly seems similar, but it was dealt with swiftly, and while I implored UZKN to appeal the verdict as I felt we had the legal grounds to warrant this, there simply wasn’t the financial means to do so.’
Haswell said the whole messy matter was also a byproduct of overly-complicated tournament rules.
‘I think this whole thing was avoidable from the start. I feel for the players who have been dragged into as well, and when our ruling was handed down, I felt a dangerous precedent had been set. There are pages and pages of convoluted rules, with potential loopholes to be exploited, and I’m not surprised this sort of thing has happened.
‘Ultimately, I just don’t like the way the whole thing has been handled in the end. Going forward, it is critically important that the eligibility of players is decided by an audit process at the beginning and not the end of the season.’
Photo: Catherine Kotzé/SASPA