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Rugby Players Sentenced in Killing

May 2, 2002

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PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) _ Two white South African rugby players convicted of murdering a 19-year-old black man were sentenced Thursday to 18 years in prison for a crime many South Africans believed was racially motivated.

In passing sentence on Riaan Botha and Ben Korff, Pretoria High Court Judge Bernard Ngoepe described the killing of Tshepo Matloha as ``vicious.″

``More contemptuous and insensitive to a human being can one hardly ever be,″ he said.

However, prosecutors had not proven the killing was racially motivated, he said.

Botha and Korff were part of a group from the Noordelike Rugby Club who were on a farm for team-building exercises when they came upon Matloha and his two cousins hunting illegally in March 2001.

They were convicted last month of beating Matloha to death, with Ngoepe ruling that Botha had trampled on Matloha’s head and Korff had jumped on his chest.

Matloha’s father, Michael Kgokolo, said the sentences were too light.

``They should have got life sentences,″ he told the South African Press Association.

Botha and Kobus Joubert also received four-year sentences for obstructing justice by throwing Matloha’s body in a lake to hide the evidence of the crime.

Botha’s sentences were to run concurrently.

Two other men were acquitted of all charges.

Defense lawyers had argued Matloha died after falling off a truck while trying to escape from the rugby players.

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