Bismarck in the clear

2013-10-23 00:00

THE rugby gods — and the SA Rugby Union (Saru) judicial officer — have smiled benignly on Bismarck du Plessis with the Springbok hooker yesterday cleared to play for the Sharks in Saturday’s Currie Cup final against Western Province.

The Saru judicial hearing found Du Plessis not guilty of stamping on Free State Cheetahs flank Pieter Labuschagne in the Currie Cup semi-final at King’s Park at the weekend.

Du Plessis and Sharks CEO John Smit flew to the hearing in Cape Town on Monday morning and advocate André Oosthuizen reserved his judgment until yesterday, when he cleared the Springbok.

In his judgment, Oosthuizen ruled that based on the facts placed before him by the player and the assistant referee Cobus Wessels, as well as the video footage viewed during the inquiry, “the contact Du Plessis made with Labuschagne was accidental”.

Wessels was the assistant referee who flagged the incident in the 65th minute of the game.

The whole rugby world and his dog expected Du Plessis to be suspended for at least a week, ruling him out of the final. Du Plessis, tangling with the Free Stater on the ground, first appears to aim a slap at the Free State flank. The Sharks hooker then gets to his feet, looking down at Labuschagne and placing his right foot on the ground and his left on the chest of the Free Stater.

The decision to clear the fortunate Du Plessis has already caused an angry outcry among the media and supporters in Cape Town. Many cited Saru’s inconsistency with a one-week ban recently handed to Western Province utility forward Michael Rhodes, who was found guilty of unintentionally trampling on a Blue Bulls player.

In contrast, there was huge relief among the coaching staff at King’s Park and a sense that in a roundabout way justice had been done as Province hooker Scarra Ntubeni was not cited for a dangerous spear tackle on the Golden Lions’ Robert de Bruyn in Saturday’s other semi-final.

“It is fantastic news to have Bismarck back and we were very relieved to hear the news,” Sharks coach Brad Macleod-Henderson said yesterday.

Backline coach Sean Everitt said Du Plessis “was excited about getting off” and highlighted his importance to the team.

“Just from the physicality point of view, Bismarck offers so much and he obviously brings some apprehension to the opposition.

“He does impose himself on the field and he’s very good on the ground turning ball over, so it’s huge to have him.

“He also leads from the front and others follow. He’s a leader within his own right. It was a huge relief to get him back,” said Everitt.

The Sharks started the week with five Springbok forwards in doubt for the final, but the smiles are returning.

Du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira and Willem Alberts have now been cleared to play and a decision on Jannie du Plessis and Jean Deysel has been delayed until this morning when the team will be announced.

Macleod-Henderson said there would not be many changes for the final.

“We’re not looking at overhauling what’s worked pretty well for us so far,” he said.

South Africa’s most experienced Test referee Jonathan Kaplan, who is to retire at the end of the season, will handle his sixth Currrie Cup final on Saturday.

The final kicks off at 5.30 pm.

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