Junior rugby coach Gemma Tuhega has been suspended from coaching her team for two months after admitting she verbally abused a 16-year-old referee.

The incident occurred following a pre-season match in Dunedin on April 8.

A misconduct complaint was lodged with the Otago Rugby Football Union (ORFU) and the Metropolitan Judicial Committee convened on Wednesday night to consider the complaint.

The ORFU issued a brief media release yesterday.


"The misconduct complaint related to a coach verbally overreacting to a decision made by the referee in a pre-season game between two junior rugby teams," the release stated.

"The words used were insulting towards the referee. There was no suggestion of any physical contact.

"The coach admitted the misconduct and has apologised to the referee, both teams, the parents of both teams and the ORFU.

"The suspension serves as notice that the ORFU does not condone acts of misconduct which brings the sport of rugby into disrepute."

ORFU community rugby manager Richard Perkins declined to comment further. Tuhega, who could not be reached for comment, is an active member of the rugby community. A prop, she played her 50th game for the Otago Spirit last season and has played more than 175 games for Pirates.

While Tuhega, a secondary school teacher, will not be able to coach her Pirates team for the next two months, she is permitted to watch the games.

Otago Rugby Referees Association chairman Chris Hart said the association was "comfortable with the penalty handed down".

"We don't condone any verbal abuse whatsoever and we're pleased that the ORFU have taken a strong stance on it," he said.

Hart said the incident was at the lower end of the scale when it came to misconduct offences. The incident has not impacted too negatively on the teenage referee, who plans to continue refereeing.

"The young fellow is holding up well.

"He is a fairly resilient sort of a character and he has come through it all right."

Hart said incidents like this happen "periodically".

"We believe it is a great deterrent for others getting involved.

"It is probably one of the toughest things we have to deal with in the lower grades, where the referees lack a wee bit of experience but the parents can also lack a little bit of composure as well."