Du Plessis cleared, but perhaps time for citing officer to be red-carded

2010-04-09 00:00

TO the surprise of no one — except over-zealous citing commissioner Andrew Prior — Sharks prop Jannie du Plessis was yesterday cleared of dangerous play during Saturday’s Super 14 game against the Queensland Reds in Durban.

Du Plessis appeared before Sanzar judicial officer Jannie Lubbe in Bloemfontein yesterday after Prior charged him with dangerous play. Prior alleged that the incident took place at a ruck — when it was, in fact, a tackle situation — and the Sharks prop faced two charges, striking Reds hooker Sean Hardman with his head and “entering a ruck in a dangerous manner”.

The alleged dangerous play went unnoticed on television, Hardman was not injured, while New Zealand referee Chris Pollock and his two assistants, touch judges Vinny Munro and Marc van Zyl, also saw nothing wrong as Du Plessis cleared out at a tackle.

Judicial officer Lubbe yesterday considered the evidence provided by Du Plessis, his representative Gerrie Swart, viewed video recordings and studied Prior’s report before dismissing the charges.

Lubbe concluded that when Du Plessis made contact with his opponent “no ruck had formed and it was a dynamic tackle situation as envisaged by Law 15”.

“The action performed by Du Plessis was to legally clean out the Reds hooker Sean Hardman, using both his arms, as he was entitled to do.”

Sanzar this year introduced new protocols aimed at refining and improving the citing system.

The major change saw a reduction in the size of the panel of citing commissioners to ensure greater consistency in the interpretation of offences that merit citing.

There is one primary citing commissioner in each of the three Sanzar nations (Australia, New Zealand and South Africa). Former Test referee Freek Burger fills that role in South Africa, with Prior as the back-up when he is not available.

A number of Prior’s citings have been dismissed by judicial officers in recent seasons, but the Durban lawyer also came under fire last month for not taking action after Hurricanes centre Ma’a Nonu spear-tackled Cheetahs captain Juan Smith in Bloemfontein.

Nonu received a yellow card for the tackle and touch judge Jonathan Kaplan, speaking to the referee, said the All Black centre deserved “at least a yellow card.” In spite of the referees’ determination to stamp out spear tackles, Prior did not cite Nonu.

While Sanzar’s new system has led to fewer disciplinary hearings, inconsistencies do remain. Certainly a couple of Bulls players who picked up facial injuries in New Zealand last Saturday will be wondering how a number of Auckland Blues players were not cited for using their heads dangerously in the tackle.

And who is keeping an eye on the watchdog? How many strikes is the citing officer allowed before he is red-carded?

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