Varsity Rugby clarifies Pukke verdict

Charges brought against Pukke for allegedly fielding an ineligible player in this year's Varsity Cup have been officially dismissed.

Advocate Stelzner SC, acting as the independent chairperson in the case, released his findings last Friday afternoon, ruling in favour of Pukke. The Varsity Cup board then met this week to discuss the ruling and issue an official statement, which was released on Wednesday and outlined the details surrounding the not-guilty finding.

Tighthead prop Bart le Roux played 614 minutes of this year's campaign as a first-year student, having represented the UKZN Impi in last year's Varsity Shield as a first-year student. The tournament rules state that a player is only allowed to play as a first-year student in one campaign.

However, in his written reasons for the decision, Stelzner found that 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.

'Instead, it would be more accurate to describe the CBA as a “short” course offered to corporate candidates or delegates wanting to gain entry into UKZN’s BBA degree programme and run by a separate corporate entity which may be affiliated to the university,' the statement continued.

Notwithstanding the evidence presented by Varsity Cup, Stelzner found that there was insufficient proof that Le Roux registered as a student of UKZN or UKZN’s Extended Learning Unit.

He concluded that Le Roux would thus have been playing as one of the three ‘non-student’ players for UKZN in the 2014 Varsity Shield, as permitted in terms of the 2014 competition rules.

'Pukke was not in breach of bylaw 8.7 by playing Le Roux in 2016, since Le Roux had, de facto and de jure, never been enrolled for any last or previous year of studies with any other university participating in a Varsity Cup competition,' he stated.

'The purported enrolment of Le Roux for the CBA course did not make him a student of UKZN in 2014, nor did it make him a bona-fide student of that university in that year, with the result that the prohibition on his playing in a subsequent year without obtaining sufficient credits did not apply to him.'

Although Varsity Shield side UKZN were docked 12 log points for fielding an ineligible player, the statement sought to clarify the two cases.

'While many have drawn parallels between this matter and the case involving UKZN in 2016, the two cases must be distinguished. 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, with UKZN pleading guilty to the charge.'

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Craig Lewis