Throw book at fan - SANZAR
Pretoria - SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters has urged the South African authorities to “throw the book” at the fan who invaded the Loftus Versfeld pitch on Saturday night, after hitting Blues captain Keven Mealamu with a water bottle he threw from the stands.
VIDEO: Johannes Nel throws a bottle at Keven Mealamu
Peters confirmed that SANZAR had asked for a “security report” from the Blue Bulls Company in the wake of the incident, which took place at the end of the Blues 29-23 win over the home side.
Security personnel arrested Johannes Gideon Nel after he threw an energy drink bottle at Mealamu, who was sitting on the sidelines after being replaced late in the game, then climbed over the security fence and accosted the Blues hooker.
Nel was immediately arrested and escorted to the stadium security control room, before being taken to the Sunnyside Police Station where he was charged with assault.
It has since emerged that a second charge was laid against the man under the Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Act, 2009, although details are unclear as to what the charge exactly entails.
The Bulls have also confirmed that Nel was initially caught by a security guard as he climbed over the fence, but as they fell to the ground he “kicked the security guard in the face” and escaped his grip, allowing him to clamber over the security barricade.
Blues team physiotherapist Mark Plummer, Bulls wing Bjorn Basson and a touch judge shielded Mealamu as the confrontation threatened to escalate after the final whistle.
Peters said he was glad that the incident had not got out of hand, but urged the Bulls to “make a serious example” out of the man.
“Thank goodness this is an isolated incident and it is infrequent in rugby,” Peters said, “It is, however, totally unacceptable and we take the security and the wellness of our players very seriously in this tournament.
“We understand the perpetrator was charged with assault and the matter is in the hands of the police. But we believe the book should be thrown at this guy and a serious example be made of him to prevent a repeat occurrence.”
While this hasn’t been the first pitch invasion, Peters said it was never acceptable.
“It is a concern wherever it happens, there have been pitch invasions in other territories in the past and we have an obligation to stamp it out. There was one bad incident about 10 years ago in South Africa which was dealt with pretty strongly and we expect the same to happen here.”
Still SANZAR would be looking forward to hearing from the Bulls on how they plan to prevent a repeat of what happened.
“It is up to the Bulls to ensure they review their security procedures so that this does not happened again. Questions need to be asked so that the process is tightened up. I don’t think anyone wants to move towards what football has where fans are caged up behind fences.”