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Rugby training ends in sea tragedy

A rugby player drowned and five more are missing after being swept away in a post-training swim off a South African beach.

Lifeguards rescued 15 of the players, but were unable to resuscitate one of the men after they were caught out by strong winds which created the rough conditions on the water.

Helicopters were being used as the search continued after the accident on Sunday. Searchers patrolled the coastline on horses and all-terrain vehicles, and police divers also were called in.

Mncedisi Mazomba, a player-manager for the Motherwell Rugby Football Club, said they have arranged for counselling for relatives of the dead man and the missing presumed dead.

He said the team was formed in 1992 as an outlet for boys and young men from Port Elizabeth's Motherwell Township to keep them away from crime and other dangers. The club had three teams that played other minor league teams along South Africa's eastern coast, and even travelled as far as Cape Town, on the western coast.

They regularly practised on the beach, enjoying "fresh air, beautiful scenery," Mr Mazomba said.

Oregan Hoskins, president of the South African Rugby Union, sent his condolences.

"To have their afternoon turn into a day of tragedy is shocking for the whole rugby community and our thoughts go out to their family," he said.

Mr Mazomba said the team would probably drop out of the championship.

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