The Bishopscourt No 1 ground. Photo by Gerard O'Brien
The cause of a rash that affected at least seven senior
Dunedin rugby players remains a mystery after soil tests showed
no fertiliser build-up that would have caused the outbreak.
Although Dunedin City Council sports ground managers say they
believe there is no reason why the ground should not be
played on because the orgins of the rash remain unclear, a
decision is yet to be made about whether to reopen it for the
remaining few weeks of the season.
Bishopscourt No 1 ground was closed and soil samples taken
for testing after five Southern and two Kaikorai players
complained of getting a rash after a game there two weekends
Rugby officials suspected fertiliser used on the field the
week before the match might have contributed to the reaction
in players, but the city council says the tests showed only a
slightly higher than normal amount of trace elements in the
The ground had fertiliser applied the day before the game,
but only potash, and it rained that night, after attempts to
continue spreading the normal potash-urea mix were abandoned
after one sideline next to the bank was done, because the mix
was too damp.
Sport services officer Nick Maguire did not believe the pitch
was the cause of the rash.
The slightly higher result was likely normal as the field
had had the potash-urea mix spread the day before the test
was done, in the same manner as all city sportsfields
regularly did throughout the winter season.
He had not heard of cases of rash from people using this or
any other ground before, despite the grounds commonly having
fertiliser spread the day before matches.
He concluded that the slightly higher reading should not be
enough to cause a skin reaction.
Testing the field for bacterial content would require an
extensive process involving soil scientists and would only be
sensible if there had been some diagnosis of what bacteria
had caused the rashes.
His research had shown it was unlikely bacteria could survive
at colder temperatures anyway, unless an animal or other
source was more or less constantly living on the field.
Dogs defecating on sports fields were an issue, but for so
many people to get a rash the field would have had to be
extensively fouled, Mr Maguire said.
Southern Rugby Club premier team co-manager Mike Regget had
heard fertiliser was the issue, and was surprised to learn it
was not. Two of his five affected players missed last week's
game because he did not want to risk their health, but all
were fit again for this weekend.
They had all been treated with antibiotics, but none had had
their rash tested.
Kaikorai Rugby Club chairman Ron St Clair-Newman said he was
suspicious it was small build-ups of fertiliser because it
had happened once before.
As far as the state of the Bishopscourt grounds went, he said
they had been ''like that'' for years and ''nobody ever got
anything [unhealthy] off them''.
Cuts and infections were not unusual among rugby players
during the season and team physios and medics carried
antiseptic ointments as a precaution against bacteria and
The two Kaikorai players with rashes were recovering. A
suggestion one required hospital treatment for the rash was
incorrect, he said.
Otago Rugby Football Union community services manager Richard
Perkins said whether the field was used again would have to
be discussed. He wanted to see how players were before any
further decisions were made about the matter.
The draw for this weekend's matches showing two games
scheduled for Bishopscourt No 1 ground was an error and those
games would be played on Bishopscourt No 3 ground.