Akker van der Merwe of the Sharks leaving the field after receiving a red card during the match against the Bulls at Kingsmead Stadium. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Akker van der Merwe of the Sharks leaving the field after receiving a red card during the match against the Bulls at Kingsmead Stadium. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Let the punishment fit the crime, says rugby scribe Jacques van der Westhuizen
Let the punishment fit the crime, says rugby scribe Jacques van der Westhuizen
“That’s not the type of person or player I am. I would just like to say sorry, and apologise for everything,” said Cheetahs centre Nico Lee. Photo: Kevin Barnes/INPHO
“That’s not the type of person or player I am. I would just like to say sorry, and apologise for everything,” said Cheetahs centre Nico Lee. Photo: Kevin Barnes/INPHO

JOHANNESBURG – Sure, clearing your nose onto an opposition player is disgusting, but does it warrant a greater suspension than a player going in head first at a ruck and then using his fists on an opponent?

And how does a slightly late shoulder charge on an opponent become a more serious offence than a “tackle” that goes wrong and where the opposition player ends up on his back on the ground?

Why can rugby not have a standardised model for dealing with disciplinary matters that is followed in the southern hemisphere (Super Rugby) and in the northern hemisphere (Pro14 and other competitions)? And why is there not more common sense used when dealing with high, late, and dangerous tackles, and players charging into rucks and taking out the opposition in the air?

I may be completely wrong and out of line here, but shouldn’t red cards be used solely for blatant and obvious dirty play, where there is intent to hurt or injure an opponent?

While every effort to make rugby a safer sport should be applauded and welcomed, rugby remains a contact sport where there will be collisions and decisions will be taken in split seconds to benefit your team.

Do the rugby authorities really feel they are keeping rugby clean and making it a better game because they act so harshly with regards certain incidents, or accidents if you like, but then not others?

Nico Lee of the Cheetahs was banned for 13 weeks for “clearing his nose on an opposition player” which, by my estimation, seems extremely harsh.
How is what he did worse than Akker van der Merwe, who copped a three-week ban for charging head-first into a ruck and then climbing into Schalk Brits?

“That’s not the type of person or player I am. I would just like to say sorry, and apologise for everything,” said Cheetahs centre Nico Lee. Photo: Kevin Barnes/INPHO
“That’s not the type of person or player I am. I would just like to say sorry, and apologise for everything,” said Cheetahs centre Nico Lee. Photo: Kevin Barnes/INPHO

Also, another Cheetahs player, prop Ox Nche, was banned for eight weeks for a slightly late shoulder charge on a Leinster player in a Pro 14 game recently because the opposition player had already kicked the ball. Rugby is a contact sport and things happen, but if you go and look at the clip and agree Nche’s action was “intentionally” aimed at Fergus McFadden’s head, and it deserved an eight-week suspension, then you shouldn’t be watching rugby.

Blues wing Tanielu Tele’a copped a four-week ban for taking out Stormers back Dillyn Leyds in the air during their Super Rugby match at the weekend. While I agree Leyds fell awkwardly and could have got badly injured, I don’t for one moment believe Tele’a intentionally wanted to hurt him, and while it was certainly an unfortunate and ugly-looking incident, to be banned for four weeks? Come on.

At least, in this instance, Sanzaar where consistent because it was a carbon copy of the red carding and subsequent four-week ban meted out to Kwagga Smith for his “tackle in the air” of Crusaders fullback David Havili in the 2017 Super Rugby final. I felt Smith was harshly treated then, and I feel Tele’a has been harshly dealt with now; neither “tackle” was malicious.

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There have been other “disciplinary incidents” recently, among them the five-week ban handed to Sharks man Jeremy Ward for his dangerous tackle on Rosko Specman, which also seemed a harsh punishment.

For sure, punish the clear-cut ill-discipline and dirty incidents, but hopefully disciplinary models can be standardised and common sense can also be used when dishing out red cards and suspensions.

@jacq_west


The Star

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