Rugby practice ends in tragedy
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
"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
"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
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."