Rugby practice ends in tragedy

2012-03-25 22:27
EP president Cheeky Watson (Deon Ferreira, Die Burger)

Port Elizabeth - It has emerged that the rugby players who died after being swept out to sea by rip-currents at Port Elizabeth’s Blue Water Bay, had gone for a swim to cool off after a training session.

One player’s body has been found and five of his Motherwell club team-mates are missing, presumed drowned.

The team had been preparing for a SARU tournament to be played in Cape Town over Easter.

Cheeky Watson, president of the Eastern Province Rugby Union, was at the beach on Sunday where the search for the missing players continued.

"We're very sad. This is a team that came to practice and then went to cool down.

“It's really a tragedy and it touches communities as well as the whole rugby family.

“We stand by everyone who lost someone today (Sunday). I really hope the club won't disintegrate, but rather show their character by standing up."

The South African Rugby Union (SARU) also sent its condolences to the club.

"I have spoken to the president of Eastern Province Kings rugby union and members of the community today (Sunday) and this is a devastating tragedy," SARU president Oregan Hoskins said.

"These young men were preparing to compete in a SARU Easter tournament in Cape Town in a fortnight and were enjoying a carefree day on the beach with their team-mates," said Hoskins.

"To have their afternoon turned into a day of tragedy is shocking for the whole rugby community and our thoughts and prayers go out to their families." 

Earlier on Sunday the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said it had rescued 15 of 21 people who had been swept out by rip-currents earlier in the day.

"Not all of them were rugby players," said spokesperson Craig Lambinon.

Some of the 21 were members of the public.

The rescue team was alerted of the incident at around midday.

An extensive search had been launched to find the missing men.

Lambinon said three sea rescue craft, rescue rubber-ducks, a jet-ski, and a helicopter were used in the search.

Lifeguards were also swimming to check for them.

By Sunday afternoon, Lambinon said there was no sign of the five.

Lifeguards from the beach's life saving club had swum out to help when the incident took place.

"Some of the lifeguards had rescued up to three people at a time," said Lambinon.

"Of the 15 people rescued alive none were required to go to hospital although some were treated for shock and near-drowning symptoms on the beach by paramedics."

Read more on:    club rugby  |  oregan hoskins  |  port elizabeth  |  rugby

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