Four-match ban for Steyn

2015-04-01 00:00

AFTER two weeks of uncertainty, Frans Steyn finally received a four-game ban yesterday for his red card tackle on Chiefs flyhalf Aaron Cruden two weeks ago.

Steyn was originally found not guilty of the offence in a Sanzar hearing last Monday. The judicial body decided justice hadn’t been served, and appealed the initial decision and scheduled a second hearing, which took place yesterday.

According to a Sanzar press release, the committee, chaired by Terry Willis (Australia) with Nigel Hampton QC (New Zealand) and Robert Stelzner SC (South Africa) advising, upheld the original ruling and banned Steyn for four games.

“The Appeals Committee unanimously upheld the appeal brought by Sanzar and found that Steyn breached Law 10.4 [tip tackle] and that the referee was correct to red card the player during the match between the Sharks and the Chiefs played at Growthpoint King’s Park in Durban on Saturday 21, March 2015,” the release read.

With the Sharks having a bye on March 24 (round 11), Steyn will only be available for their clash against the Hurricanes in their second week on tour.

The news puts a real damper on this weekend in particular. News broke yesterday that All Black legend Dan Carter was also ruled out of this weekend’s match. It certainly won’t be a dour affair, but the Sharks-Crusaders clash will be a little less epic without the presence of both players.

Carter is on paternity leave and left the touring Crusaders squad earlier this week to fly home for the birth of his second child. While he is a loss, the visitors still have plenty of fire power in their squad.

Meanwhile, Gary Gold and his coaching staff are once again without Steyn, who only joined the side in week four due to his Japanese club commitments. He played three games at centre before filling in at flyhalf last week, where he looked slightly out of place.

With Steyn out, the spotlight shifts to flyhalf Fred Zeilinga who will now provide cover for Pat Lambie in the next few weeks. Steyn was preferred at flyhalf last weekend, but Zeilinga’s performance off the bench against the Force gave the Sharks the direction they desperately missed for most of the game.

Speaking to the media yesterday, Zeilinga said Steyn’s absence would be a huge loss for his side.

“It’s always going to be a big loss if we lose any of our senior players, but we always practise together as a group so the next guy will slot in and just carry on as normal. André’s [Esterhuizen] got a good opportunity now to show what he’s got, and hopefully he uses it,” Zeilinga said after a heated practice session yesterday.

The focus at practice was clearly on the tackle and ruck situation ahead of the clash with the Crusaders. The New Zealanders are notoriously good in that area, and the Sharks got stuck into each other as if it were game day.

Despite the physical session, Zeilinga was upbeat, especially after getting his first taste of Super Rugby action this season.

“I think I was just happy to get some game time. It was my first opportunity in Super Rugby this year so I gave it my all and hopefully it was good enough. Luckily we came off with a win so I’m happy I could contribute.”

The young flyhalf is still relatively fresh out of school and would have watched Carter dominate the world stage throughout his teen years. While tipping his hat at the All Black veteran, Zeilinga was clearly more focused on taking his opportunity in the coming weeks.

“He’s one of the world’s best flyhalves so it would have been a privilege to play against him. But for me, it’s a bigger privilege to play in a Sharks jersey, fulfil my role and earn the respect of my team-mates — that’s a bigger honour and focus for me than who I will be playing against,” Zeilinga said.

Although Steyn’s ban has opened the door for both Esterhuizen and Zeilinga, it leaves a lot of questions regarding Sanzar’s judicial processes.

While Steyn’s tackle was no doubt dangerous, it is difficult to fathom how it is in the same league as Bismarck du Plessis’s four-week ban for kicking Michael Leitch in the head in the very same game.

How too, did Chiefs hooker Hika Elliott only receive a one-week sanction for driving his elbow into the back of Beast Mtawarira’ head?

If anything, there needs to be more consistency in regards to the processes that lead to these decisions, and perhaps clearer guidelines on sanctions for different categories of foul play.

The Sharks were expected to make a formal statement regarding Steyn’s ban today.

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