(The Sunday Times, August 1997, Andrew Malone, Cape Town, South Africa)

Keen rugby fan Andre van Zyl, a detective sergeant, could not believe his eyes when he arrived at the ground following an emergency call. "There were bodies everywhere," he said. "It quickly became apparent that the match had been a rather ill-tempered affair." In an outbreak of violence unprecedented even by the brutal standards of the South African game, the final score in the "friendly" match between New Waves and Early Stars was: one player dead, one critically injured and six others with flesh wounds.

Mayhem erupted shortly after half-time during the match in Merweville, 300 miles from Cape Town, when the visiting New Waves team surged to a 24-12 lead. After trying to unsettle their opponents, including landing sneaky punches in the scrum, the home side decided on drastic action.

Guns were thrown to the home side's players by fans and the Early Stars opened fire. Players and supporters without guns hurled rocks instead.

Shocked white South African rugby fans and officials were last week keen to blame the violence on race, saying such scenes would never have happened if efforts had not been made to spread the popularity of the sport to poor township dwellers.

Police were reluctant to get involved in the racial debate. "I do not think that it would be wise to comment on that," said van Zyl. "But suffice to say that these were two all-coloured sides. Some do not play the game the way we understand it should be played."