Hero referee potentially saved his life

Photo credit: Sanlam Boland Top12 Launch

Saturday 4 November will be remembered as a red letter day for Robertson RFC backline player, Lindsay Eksteen. Eksteen suffered a potentially life-threatening injury in a Sanlam Boland Top12 fixture against Darling RC. Had it not been for the heroic efforts and speedy reaction of referee Le-Eustace Beukes things might have turned out for the worst for Eksteen. The match was played at the Gabriel Pharaoh Sports Grounds in Darling.

“Around the 29th minute Darling launched an attack which broke through Robertson’s backline,” Beukes recalled. “[Lindsay] Eksteen was coming up in the defensive line, what was very evident was that Eksteen did not even attempt to tackle the Darling player. Immediately I knew something was off, while he was on his feet, I could see that he did not seem stable.

“Play continued and moved away from where he was, he was walking very slowly, and then when I looked back at Lindsay, I could see his arms were stiff next to his torso. This was when I blew my whistle and raced over to him. When I got to him, he was about to fall to the ground, I caught him right before this could happen. The play was about 20 to 25 metres from where Lindsay was staggering along before I caught him. I held him in an upright position.

“I could feel his body tensing up, his mouth skewed, and his eyes starting to roll back into his head. Saliva also came out of his mouth. This was a sign to me that the player was indeed having some form of attack. I held him while more medical help entered the field.

Photo: Le-Eustace Beukes (front) and Lindsay Eksteen in Tygerberg Hospital on Sunday, 5 November. Eksteen was discharged a few hours after the photo was taken. Photo: Supplied

Every referee, coach, manager, administrator, and medical personnel must be BokSmart accredited to be declared fit to be part of any rugby event, match, or tournament in South Africa. BokSmart means the National Rugby Safety Program run for the South African Rugby Union. It is a code of conduct that governs safety on and off a rugby field where a rugby match, competition, or warm-up match is being played within the borders of South Africa.

“Upon their arrival, I kept shouting that BokSmart protocol must be followed, and that the player’s safety is now paramount. Then we placed the player safely on the ground so we could continue enforcing the BokSmart protocol. While the ambulance was making their way towards us, we placed him in the recovery position. I continued to kneel by the player while medical assistance was on their way.

“With the arrival of the ambulance, I once again said that everyone should follow BokSmart protocol, after which I handed the situation over to them, nearly 30 minutes after I caught Lindsay before falling to the ground.”

Beukes had the frame of mind to assess the situation and convene with Robertson and Darling’s chairman.

“I called a quick meeting with the two chairmen and asked if the match should continue given that a traumatic event had just taken place. I wanted to confirm that both clubs agree that the match continues or be stopped completely, they agreed for it to continue.”

Beukes’ duty did not stop when he blew his whistle to end the game, he went the extra mile.

“I managed to get in touch with Lindsay’s mom to enquire about his progress and how he is doing. She confirmed at the time [on Sunday afternoon] that he is doing fine, and he is in Tygerberg Hospital. I mentioned to her that I would come around to visit and see how he is doing.

“When I got to the hospital both his parents were there, I got Lindsay on the hospital bed and was very happy to see that he was speaking normally and recovering well.”

Lindsay Eksteen was discharged from Tygerberg Hospital on Sunday early evening.

“We are very grateful for the work our referees are doing, referees like Le-Eustace Beukes, who is among the top ten referees in the Boland Rugby Union,” said Mr Bennie van Rooi, president of Boland Rugby Union. “It gives one great satisfaction knowing that every key stakeholder like Sanlam, Tekkie Town, Santam, Vumatel, and Umbro are allowing us to elevate such an already amazing and very popular competition to the next level.

“The Sanlam Boland Top12 is an excellent tournament, and we take player safety very seriously. Le-Eustace’s reaction is a testament to the level of diligence and care we take in making sure everyone’s safety, especially our club players and supporters, is our number one priority.”