An urgent investigation has been launched into the altercation between student protesters and fans during the Varsity Cup match in Bloemfontein on Monday.
The ugly incident caused the game between Shimlas and NMMU to be halted when a group of protesters broke through security and on to the field, leading to a clash with disgruntled members of the crowd before university security managed to defuse the situation.
The University of the Free State issued a statement on Tuesday to say the matter was being looked into, with some reports suggesting as many as 34 students had been arrested following ongoing incidents at the university.
‘The rugby players of both teams, as well as the match officials, immediately cleared the field as the protesters moved across the field towards the halfway line,’ the statement read. ‘Members of the UFS protection services gathered around the protesters but were outnumbered. After a few minutes, spectators ran on to the field. The protestors were chased off the field and beaten by the spectators. Injured persons were treated by medical personnel. It is clear at this time that both the protesting group and the spectators included non-students in their numbers.
‘The senior leadership of the UFS condemns in the strongest terms possible the violence against the protestors; nobody has the right to take the law into their own hands. An urgent investigation is underway, using footage from the event, and no stone will be left unturned to identify those who acted violently, whether students or not.’
Varsity Cup CEO Duitser Bosman said they had contingency plans in place for such match interruptions, while a media spokesman told SARugbymag.co.za that an updated statement would be released later on Tuesday.
'The possible disruption of matches due to pitch invasion by individuals and groups with other agendas on our campuses, was discussed at length at previous Varsity Cup board meetings,’ Bosman said.
Play resumed roughly an hour after the match had been interrupted, with Shimlas going on to win 46-19.
Photo: Conrad Bornam/Volksblad