Quade to miss Sharks clash

2012-07-17 00:00

THE Sharks’ loss of the injured Pat Lambie ahead of Saturday’s Super Rugby quarter-final clash in Brisbane was yesterday offset by the suspension of the Reds’ playmaker Quade Cooper.

Cooper was yesterday banned for one week following his dangerous tackle on fellow-Wallaby Berrick Barnes in the Reds’ 32-16 weekend win over the Waratahs.

The charge appeared fairly clear-cut as Cooper — who was yellow-carded — caught Barnes in a neck-high tackle which forced the groggy Waratahs centre to leave the field.

But, following a marathon Sanzar disciplinary hearing which lasted nearly five hours, Cooper yesterday received a one-week ban, allowing him to return for the semi-finals — if the Reds beat the Sharks.

Sanzar conceded in a statement that double standards were applied in the lenient sentence.

“It is significant that the Sanzar rules allow consideration to be given to the importance of games in the finals series and this was taken into account as a mitigating circumstance.”

Cooper, however, was not impressed with the one-match ban and he told reporters that he was considering appealing.

“It’s something I didn’t want to hear,” he said after the Brisbane hearing. “I’m really gutted.

“I felt we had a very strong case. It wasn’t anything intentional or anything malicious.”

Cooper said that a decision would be made today about whether to appeal, but said he feared a longer sentence.

“Obviously with an appeal there’s an opportunity for the one week to become anything from two to three weeks and you run the risk of missing the remainder of the competition,” he told reporters.

Cooper, who has spent much of the year on the sidelines following knee surgery, has shown signs of his best form in recent weeks and his suspension is a massive blow for the Reds.

Reds coach Ewen McKenzie now faces a choice at flyhalf between the versatile Ben Lucas and goalkicker and inside centre Mike Harris.

McKenzie is still confident his team will beat the Sharks.

“There’s no doubt that Quade makes a difference for us, but we’ve done a lot without him this season.

“We had a great win against the Chiefs here and Quade wasn’t playing and Benny Lucas was at 10.”

The Sharks fought back from 17-0 to beat the Reds 27-22 at King’s Park earlier this year and McKenzie said that his players were looking forward to the chance to “square the ledger’’ this weekend.

Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford said that Cooper had played a pivotal role in the Reds late-season comeback.

“They had a lot of players injured at the start of the tournament and they’ve gained some rhythm and flow as players have returned. Quade Cooper has been instrumental in their comeback. They’re the defending champions, a championship side that know how to win this tournament.

“They’ll have huge support at home and we’ll certainly have our hands full, but it’s a challenge the boys are looking forward to and the win in Durban has given our players belief.

“Some of our key players, like Willem Alberts, Beast Mtawarira, Ryan Kankowski, have come back from injury and are all playing well, so we’re certainly in a better position now than we were earlier in the tournament.”

The match — kick-off 11.40 am South African time on Saturday — will be handled by South African referee Jonathan Kaplan while countryman Jaco Peyper will be in charge of the earlier Crusaders-Bulls playoff in Christchurch (9.35 am).

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