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Club rugby coach banned for season for referee abuse

Two serious incidents of referee abuse in Canterbury sport in recent weeks resulted in a rugby coach being banned from coaching this season and a football team being investigated.

Woodend Division One rugby coach Dewet Nortje was banned from coaching for the rest of the year after he abused a referee during a recent match.

The incident was investigated by the independent New Zealand Rugby judiciary, which decided to ban the former South African professional rugby player from coaching this season.

Nortje confirmed he had been before the judiciary, but when asked if he was banned for the season he initially said he had no comment before saying “no…that’s not what happened to me”. Sources have confirmed the ban to Stuff.

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Asked what the outcome was from the hearing, Nortje said he was not “likely to talk to the papers”.

He refused to confirm or deny if he was still the Woodend Division One coach.

Woodend Rugby declined to comment on the incident.

Canterbury Rugby Union media and content manager George Berry said they did not comment on individual cases, but did say the union was keen to send the “really hard and important message” that abuse of any kind would not be tolerated.

While it wanted to be tolerant to people’s situations, the union would not stand for any poor behaviour, he said, particularly against people who were volunteering their time to referee.

Rugby coach Dewet Nortje has been banned for a season after he abused a referee.  (File photo)

Thomas Busby/Stuff

Rugby coach Dewet Nortje has been banned for a season after he abused a referee. (File photo)

Berry said the union had spent a lot of time and money promoting good behaviour, including the Sport Canterbury-led ‘Let’s keep it positive’ campaign.

Set up in winter 2021 with the Canterbury sporting community, the campaign emphasizes the positive and asks the community to take a stand to stop negative behavior from parents, caregivers, coaches and players on the sideline and in a game.

Nortje’s ban comes at the same time as a women’s Premier League football game between Cashmere Technical and Coastal Spirit SAS has failed under the spotlight, due to allegations of referee abuse last weekend.

Mainland Football chief executive Martin Field Dodgson confirmed an alleged serious incident against a young assistant referee was under judicial review following the match on April 30.

Dodgson said he expected the review to be conducted soon.

Mainland Football generally had a good record without many incidents with match officials, he said.

“When they do happen it’s not something that we condone. Hence, we have a process to deal with it.”

The New Zealand Football disciplinary code states players can be banned for at least four playing days for unsporting behavior towards an official match.

That rises to 10 playing days for intimidating or threatening a match official and at least 12 months for assaulting a match official.

Last June, a Christchurch high schooler was suspended from playing rugby after racial slurs were reportedly hurled during a school rugby game.

Sports Canterbury has been leading a campaign to stop sideline abuse of players and referees.

Dominico Zapata/Stuff

Sports Canterbury has been leading a campaign to stop sideline abuse of players and referees.

The incident happened towards the end of an under-15 match between Cashmere High School and Linwood College.

It was understood Cashmere supporters yelled abusive comments at Linwood players and the referee after disagreeing with some of their calls.

Last June, Wellington Rugby Referees chairman for 21 years Ian Dallas said abuse had caused them to lose referees.

Typically, though, rugby was good at respecting referees and officials had support if they were getting “stick”, he said.

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