Mind Games: Hoskins is right to say ‘no more Mr Nice Guy’

2015-04-13 10:00

SA Rugby Union (Saru) president Oregan Hoskins’ outrage at inequities in rugby disciplinary processes is long overdue.

It’s a boil that had to burst, because for too long South African players have felt hard done by.

The sport’s penalty system has done them no favours since arguably the inception of the SA, New Zealand and Australian Rugby partnership in 1996 that resulted in the Tri-Nations and Super Rugby competitions.

There have just been too many instances of South African players being more harshly refereed and severely punished when tribunals evaluated infringements and handed out sentences.

South African fans have long been incensed at the perceived prejudice against our teams and local citing officers and disciplinary tribunals tending to be more lenient on visiting players.

In addition, there has been great, albeit unacknowledged, dissatisfaction at Saru’s lack of strong action in defending players.

Hoskins has now decided to lay down the law, and the heat will be on André Watson, general manager of South African referees, as well as others who enforce disciplinary procedure, to provide explanations and appease supporters.

There is little doubt the president will be applauded by rugby’s body of public opinion.

Going back to incidents such as New Zealand and Australian referee bosses who erroneously sent emails talking of “teaching the Japies a lesson”, and colluded to keep South Africa in the dark about certain resolutions to Bryce Lawrence’s handling of the 2011 rugby World Cup quarterfinal, fans have demanded stronger protestation from South African rugby.

It must also be said the SA Rugby Players’ Association has hardly been a strong voice of dissent on behalf of its members.

The matter has now been driven to a head by a spate of unfavourable judgments against a trio of Sharks players.

Bismarck du Plessis (four weeks), Frans Steyn (five weeks) and Jean Deysel (seven weeks) have all recently received hefty bans.

And while no one – Hoskins included – is denying players deserve to be reprimanded, the apparent inequities are an issue.

Players and fans want to know why New Zealand and Australian players who committed similar infringements were not carded on the field or – more to the point – why they were not cited, as South African players regularly are.

Why, for instance, was Chiefs captain Liam Messam not pulled up for performing an alarming choke hold on Renaldo Bothma? Or, in terms of the ethos of the game, not reprimanded for showing continuous dissent towards the match official?

Why was Tom Marshall not officially sanctioned for a dangerous knee into the back of Cobus Reinach, which had the potential to cause serious injury?

No one is saying South African players are angels, but neither are the Kiwis or Aussies.

All we ask is for players to be treated fairly and honestly and for official punishments to be consistent.

Hoskins’ protest contains a clear message to Watson and other officials: No more Mr Nice Guy, protect our players.

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