Highlanders winger banned for six weeks

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iol spt apr7 Baker-Highlanders Getty Images File picture: Otago Highlanders winger Kurt Baker, right, has been slapped with a six-week suspension for a dangerous tackle on Melbourne Rebels' scrumhalf Nick Stirzaker. Photo by Rob Jefferies/Getty Images

Otago Highlanders winger Kurt Baker has been slapped with a six-week suspension for a dangerous tackle on Melbourne Rebels' scrumhalf Nick Stirzaker during a Super Rugby match on Friday.

The 25-year-old Baker, a Commonwealth Games gold medallist with New Zealand's sevens team, drove Stirzaker away from a ruck early in the Highlanders' 33-30 win in Dunedin before lifting him and dumping him quickly into the ground.

“I considered that the potential for harm was significant as the tackled player was lifted high off the ground and tipped quickly so that ... his neck made contact with the ground,” SANZAR's judicial officer said in his ruling on Monday.

“The tackler has the responsibility not to place the tackled player at such risk and in this case, the player was placed in a very vulnerable position and was fortunate to not be injured.”

Governing body SANZAR has in recent years doled out heavy punishments to try to rid Super Rugby of lifting tackles, also known as tip or spear tackles, that often have players land forcefully on their heads.

The dangers of the tackle were starkly illustrated in Australian rugby league two weeks ago when Newcastle Knights forward Alex McKinnon was left with a broken neck after being lifted and dumped in a three-man tackle. – Reuters

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