Is SANZAAR waiting for the death of a player?


What is it going to take in the game of rugby before referees, officials, citing commissioners and judiciaries front to the responsibility to ensure rugby is a sport and not a life-threatening exercise.

I am stunned and appalled that a judiciary could find no sanction befitting the crassness, cowardice and illegality of Reds prop Taniela Tupou’s tackle on Stormers’s outside back Craig Barry.

To borrow from an industry colleague Tank Lanning, who tweeted:

Tupou had a 30-plus kg advantage, which would make it a physical mismatch even if the tackle was legal. A player who makes contact legally can at least prepare for the impact. Barry, in this instance, had no defence. He had offloaded the ball, his body was relaxed and he was following the movement of the pass he had just made. The hit on him was late, high (to the neck and head area) and also without arms bound around the player.

Television replays showed the full force and also the consequence and snap effect on Barry’s neck/head area. It was charring on the eye, which is an understatement to what it was on Barry’s physical being.

And it’s now being excused?

The referee Marius van der Westhuizen saw it and then refused to revisit the incident. Van der Westhuizen should never be allowed to referee at this level. His incompetence only adds to the troubles of professional rugby when it comes to player safety.

The citing commission saw it and determined it a straight red card offence. The minimum sanction should have been three weeks. The bigger sanction should be therapy for a bully who acts with cowardice.

Barry survived the immediate incident and that makes it all okay? Again, the warning signs are there in every professional match that the frequency, with which illegal head high tackles are made don’t balance to the yellow and red card sanction, let alone the penalty sanction.

Concussion is a long-term killer for those players on the receiving end. All the studies into American Football are damning.

Rugby is as brutal in its collisions. It has another code to learn from, but those entrusted with ensuring the adjustments are made in tackle techniques, namely the referees, assistants, TMOs and citing commissioners and judicial commissioners are betraying the efforts of those who are fighting for player safety.

The integrity of match officials is absent in Super Rugby. There is so much incompetence and inconsistency. There is also a disregard to effectively police the law that states a player’s neck/head area is out of bounds.

Match officials have now become medical experts in determining force, effect of force and consequence. How the hell has this been allowed to happen and why the hell is no one within SANZAAR, as just one example, taking responsibility and enforcing accountability?

I consider Jonathan Kaplan the leading authority on officiating. He was the world’s best referee and he is actively involved in the game. He is my go to on social media whenever I want my own view challenged on referees and match officials.

Kaplan has been frank in his assessment of how the match officials are failing the game and especially how inconsistent the application of the high and late tackle is.

Player safety is at the essence of this and the players are being failed.

Follow influential and renowned Sports Scientist Ross Tucker on Twitter. He is at the heart of all the research, analysis and data being collected and interpreted from a sports science perspective to make the game safer for players.

His analysis is there for public consumption. He engages in discussion, debate and he provides information to support opinion.

Tucker is emphatic that the game needs vigilant enforcing of the illegalities when it comes to high tackles.

The research shows that in most cases the tackler is even at greater risk in an illegal collision, when it comes to the issue of safety.

He dismisses the notion that the game is being destroyed because of over-zealous officiating. To the contrary, it has the potential of being destroyed because of an absence in officiating where there should be an over zealousness.

I was fuming with the lack of consequence to the Barry incident when I saw it happen and there was no immediate sanction.

Now I am even more angry because unfortunately it is going to take a tragedy for there to be acknowledgement.

And why does it need someone to be paralysed or killed for the officials to enforce a law that was altered to make rugby safer and ensure a player was protected from cowardly and illegal late, high and no arms tackles.

Here’s a snapshot of Tucker’s data and view. It is damning.

This week he tweeted:

Mark Keohane is a Cape-Town based award-winning rugby specialist and former Springbok Communications Manager. Follow him on Twitter 

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

Previous Mark Keohane columns on Sport24:

Bok series will be the end of Eddie Jones

Don't blame transformation for SA rugby woes

Stormers don't have halfbacks to challenge in Super Rugby

Bulls will be a different animal under Mitchell

Back Sharks to be SA's top team

Rassie's Boks will beat England's Eddie

Shocking results, not race behind Coetzee's axing

No tournament with Sunwolves can be 'best v best'!

How Rassie plans to re-align SA Rugby

Scrap the 30-Test ruling and make Cheslin Kolbe a Bok!

Blitzboks, not All Blacks, the talk of Cape Town

Kids don't win RWCs, get back Duane, Frans!

Why Rassie is the man to take Boks forward

Paris glory won't erase Albany and Dublin gore

I'd happily take a 1-point win!

To vote against SA's bid would be an insult

Bosch will win Currie Cup final for Sharks

No current Bok would make 2007 team!

Dublin is D-Day for Boks

All Blacks' lack of desire gives Boks a sniff

Boks will beat Wallabies, but...

Bok changes won't spell panic

Boks will run All Blacks close

Win or lose in Perth, Boks have made progress!

Etzebeth is the right choice for Bok captain!

Kriel sets example others should follow

Combrinck to lead Lions to Super Rugby title

Jantjies the man to lead Lions to glory

Stormers WILL reach Super Rugby semis!

Stormers need to back youngster Willemse

Serfontein, Mostert the Boks standouts

Boks must extend Brendan 'Mr Fixit' Venter's role

Coetzee's Lions-laden Bok side can't lose!

Expect a different looking Bok starting XV!

Fear not, Boks will whitewash France 3-0!

Hey Allister, load the Boks with Lions!

The RWC 2019 gods have smiled on the Boks!

Unleash Curwin Bosch on the French!

YES, an overseas-based SA team would beat the Boks, but...

The next Springbok skipper has to be...

Super Rugby cull good for SA rugby

Clap, clap ... Venter's appointment should be applauded

South African rugby NEEDS to host RWC 2023

Why SA can't have 6 Super Rugby teams

Super 12 glory is now Super 18 gory

No winner is SARU's half-cocked overseas policy

Keeping Coetzee sadly no April Fools' joke

Mediocrity must fall!

Overseas based SA players are no traitors!

Sick Boks need more than a new doctor

Joost earned more than a minute's silence

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