Guilty Giteau gets away with it

2009-08-11 00:00

THE inconsistency of the International Rugby Board’s citing process was highlighted yesterday when Wallaby flyhalf Matt Giteau escaped censure for an ugly, head-high challenge on Springbok scrumhalf Fourie du Preez in Saturday’s Test and South Africa faced an international disciplinary hearing following the protest at the recent suspension of Bakkies Botha.

Giteau was guilty on a number of counts in felling Du Preez at Newlands. Leading with his elbow, he took out the Springbok without the ball, while he was in the air and at head-height. The dazed Springbok had to receive treatment and the Wallaby playmaker, and a key member of the Wallaby team, was yellow-carded. Curiously, though, he was not later cited by New Zealand match commissioner David Gray.

While Giteau arrived back in Australia yesterday, SA Rugby was in the dock and facing an IRB disciplinary committee after the Springboks wore white armbands in the third and final Test against the British Lions last month to protest the suspension of Botha.

The Bok lock was suspended after being found guilty of recklessly charging into a ruck in the second Test, though even the Lions agreed that Botha was doing what players are taught to do and that is to clear out at the breakdown.

The Boks, furious at the sentence and the failure of their appeal, wore white armbands carrying the words “Justice 4” in the Ellis Park Test and they were supported by their management team.

SA Rugby was subsequently charged by the IRB with bringing the game into disrepute.The chairman of the disciplinary committee is New Zealand’s John Hansen, with Argentina’s Guillermo Tragant and Australia’s John Eales as the other members. The hearing was held via a telephone link-up and it is expected that SA Rugby will receive a heavy fine.

Australian and international observers were convinced that Giteau would be cited after his reckless challenge on Saturday and the lack of action will confirm the South African view that there are two sets of rules in dealing with dirty play — one for the Springboks, like Bakkies Botha and Butch James, and the other governing the rest of the rugby-playing world.

The Australians arrived home yesterday to a wave of media criticism, though The Australian also chose to attack Saturday’s referee and the gamesmanship of Springbok captain John Smit.

The Wallabies’ poor discipline and lack of mental toughness was blamed for their 29-17 loss at Newlands as major doubts were raised over their ability to compete away from home.

The Australians lost three players to the sin bin and were penalised heavily for indiscretions as the Springboks went eight points clear of New Zealand in the series standings.

“Vital areas of the Australian game were so dreadful that it made one ponder if this team, who appear short of mental toughness and composure, will ever get it together and learn how to win away Tri-Nations games with any regularity,” the Sydney Morning Herald said.

“Auckland three weeks ago was the wasted opportunity. Cape Town was just a waste.”

The Daily Telegraph said the Wallabies handed victory to the Springboks.

“The Wallabies were left lamenting their same old Tri-Nations story after handing victory to South Africa on a silver platter in Cape Town,” it said.

“The Wallabies never looked comfortable against the intense pressure of the Springboks and their simple but effective, kick-chase-bash game plan.

“Compounding the discipline problem, Australia’s lineout was routed by South Africa — losing nine of its own throws — which made it impossible to build any pressure or points in South African territory.”

The Australian looked elsewhere and writer Wayne Smith said referee Alain Rolland “allowed the Springboks to get away with the very same infringements that brought down his wrath upon the Australians”.

“And how a referee of Rolland’s experience could allow himself to be so brazenly conned [at the scrums] by Springbok captain John Smit beggars belief.”

The rugby world, of course, will find this criticism a bit rich coming from a country, which for years was led by scrumhalf George Gregan, a world famous manager of referees.

The Australian was also critical of the Springboks’ lack of attacking ambition and said they relied on “putting up bombs and waiting for the Wallabies and/or Rolland to do the rest for them”.

“Both Australia and the referee obliged,” Smith wrote.

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