Steyn not guilty of foul play

2013-04-30 00:00

SHARKS coach John Plumtree heaved a huge sigh of relief yesterday when Springbok centre Frans Steyn was found not guilty of foul play and was cleared to play in Saturday’s Super Rugby game against the Highlanders in Dunedin.

The citing commissioner in Hamilton charged Steyn with illegally entered a ruck (without using his arms) in the closing moments of Saturday’s game against the Chiefs at the Waikato Stadium in Hamilton

He said he “deemed in his opinion the incident had met the red card threshold for foul play”.

The Sanzar judicial hearing did not agree and Steyn was yesterday cleared of any wrongdoing. The brief hearing was held via video conference last night (New Zealand time) and was heard by Jannie Lubbe SC assisted by former Brumbies and Wallaby player Adam Magro.

Lubbe said that Steyn’s explanation was supported by the video evidence and that the incident at the ruck took place directly in front of the referee (New Zealander Chris Pollock) who awarded a penalty to the Sharks.

Steyn was represented by Gerrie Swart.

The loss of Steyn to suspension would have been particularly damaging, said Plumtree, who was annoyed at the unnecessary citing — and the disruptions it had caused in the squad — but delighted at the outcome of the hearing.

“Our midfield has been decimated by injury [first to Tim Whitehead and then Paul Jordaan] and losing Frans would have been another big blow,” he said.

Steyn, looking trimmer and more energetic against the Chiefs, had his best game for the Sharks this year and there are signs he is returning to form.

“It’s good to have wings JP [Pietersen] and Lwazi [Mvovo] back to give us that extra firepower out wide but we can’t afford to lose players in the midfield,” said Plumtree.

The Sharks are without their first-choice scrumhalf Cobus Reinach (ankle ligament strain) and there will be new pairings down the backline for the game against the Highlanders.

“The injury list just keeps growing and now two of our fastest backs [Paul Jordaan and Reinach] are now home in South Africa.

“We’re pretty frustrated with the lack of continuity in combinations. I don’t like offering excuses, but the number of injuries we’ve had is ridiculous and it’s making life hard.”

He said that the improvement in attack, and the bonus point for four tries against the Chiefs, was a timely boost.

“We took a step up in the try-scoring department and we’re hoping we can continue that this week.”

Plumtree said the early tries conceded by the Sharks against the Chiefs were a concern.

“We were 24-0 down before we even starting playing. I was really proud of the way the boys then fought back, secured field position, took a couple of opportunities and got back into the game. At half time it was anyone’s game and that was really pleasing.”

He said the emphasis last week had been on improving the attack.

“We did get more width to our game and that was encouraging. The Chiefs have a good defence, so for us to get four tries against them was great. The problem was that we also conceded four.”

The Sharks meet the Highlanders, who are without a win this year, on Saturday (9.35 am SA time). Steve Walsh will be the referee.

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