Johannesburg - Bismarck du Plessis feels top-flight rugby matches must be contested between full-strength teams.
The Bok hooker agrees with former international coaches Nick Mallett and John Mitchell who insist rugby needs to have 15 men playing 15 men for it to be a fair contest.
“Whether this will mean that a player who receives a red card is replaced by another player and will automatically be suspended I do not know. What I do know is that it is a player who should be red carded if he deserves it and not the crowd or the viewers at home (who should be punished),” Du Plessis said.
The Springbok No 2 was incorrectly yellow-carded by referee Romain Poite in last weekend’s Rugby Championship game against New Zealand in Auckland and a second yellow card later in the game left Poite with no option but to send Du Plessis from the field. Just two days later, the International Rugby Board acknowledged Du Plessis should never have been sent off because the first yellow card – for a tackle that Poite deemed to be high and late on Dan Carter – should never have been shown to the hooker.
The rugby world, including many New Zealanders, was in agreement Poite got his call wrong. The All Blacks would win the Test 29-15, but the result left a hollow feeling in that the Boks had to play much of the match, which was billed as the biggest since the World Cup final in 2011, with 14 men.
Mallett, who coached the Boks and Italy, has subsequently called for a “challenge system”, similar to that used in cricket, to become part of rugby where a captain can ask for the television match official to review a decision.
Mitchell, a former All Blacks coach, tweeted after last Saturday’s game: “Red cards are ridiculous. My pet dislike is a lack of 15 v 15. IRB this ruins the game. At least have the player replaced ... people pay money.”
The world of rugby was in agreement this week that the game was robbed of the ultimate contest, with fans angry they never got to see the number one and two teams take each other on at full strength.
The Saturday Star has learned talks at IRB level to ensure 15 face 15 men for the full 80 minutes have been on-going for years. Piet Heymans, CEO of the South African Rugby Players Association confirmed this. “IRPA (the International Players Association) made submissions to the IRB about this matter some years ago,” said Heymans. “They felt the contest was over once a red card had been issued.”
Heymans said the matter didn’t find favour with the IRB, “but maybe it will be looked at again. The feeling I’ve always got from my counterparts across the world is that the players want to have full teams face each other.”
Du Plessis added: “No system is perfect. We see similar issues in cricket and soccer which upset fans and which give them ground to argue the authenticity of results. I have no doubt that the custodians of our game will do whatever it takes to improve the game, including laws and rules which may avoid unforeseen and unexpected results.”
Mitchell said there are such small margins at Test level, that the loss of a player to a red card is critical. “We shouldn’t let the game suffer ... rugby is different to other sports; you need 15 against 15 for it to be a contest, especially in defence.”
Du Plessis further stated the career-threatening knee injury he suffered last year in the opening game of the Rugby Championship, which ruled him out for the season, had helped him get over the disappointment of losing last week.
“In August last year I suffered an injury that put my rugby career under a cloud of uncertainty. For months I lived with anger and frustration. They are emotions that turn one into a pessimistic human being. I guess the injury shaped me as a person, so this incident doesn’t frustrate or anger me.”