Omesh Ramnarain, the motorist charged with crashing into and killing two cyclists on the M4 Highway leading out of Durban in February last year, will plead not guilty to charges of culpable homicide.
This was confirmed by his advocate, Murray Pitman, when he made a brief appearance before Durban regional court magistrate, Anand Maharaj, on Friday.
The 33-year-old plumber had indicated earlier that he would plead guilty in terms of a plea bargain agreement with the State, through which he was expected to serve about five years in jail.
But, at the last minute - and after being given time by the court to sort out his business affairs before formally pleading and going to jail - he changed lawyers.
At his last court appearance, Pitman said his new legal team needed time to view the evidence and to assess whether to proceed with a plea agreement or go to trial.
It was a blow to families and friends of the two cyclists, Richard Da Silva, 46, and Jared Dwyer, 36, who had come to court with expectations of a guilty plea.
During emotional scenes outside of court, Da Silva's mother Rosa said Ramnarain had apologised to her and "cried on my shoulder".
"I told him I forgave him. But he lied to me," she told News24.
There was also an altercation between some of Dwyer's relatives and Ramnarain, which resulted in him losing his shoe.
Pitman on Friday asked the magistrate to caution relatives.
"I am alive to the fact that this is an emotional case...emotions are running high. After the last appearance, my client and representatives of his family were assaulted and verbally abused.
"While it is understandable, it is not acceptable... We ask that they please let justice run its course.
"My client walked away and did not lay charges because we don't want side issues to interfere with the real issues of the matter."
Maharaj said while he did not know whether or not the altercation had happened, he asked the prosecutor, Herman Mouton, to speak to the families.
"It is difficult, but they need to see the trial out. And anything that affects the fairness of the trial can be prejudicial to the State," he said.
The trial has been set down to begin on January 15 next year and will run for a week.
Mouton confirmed that the State would call six witnesses.
Pitman said formal admissions would be made relating to all technical medical issues and the trial would be run "on the merits" relating to the actual collision and the allegations that his client had consumed alcohol.
The defence expected to call three witnesses, he said.