Super Rugby

Fleck: No issues with Etzebeth discipline

Cape Town - On Friday night at Newlands, Stormers and Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth further enhanced his reputation as a man who doesn't mind a bit of off-the-ball action. 

With 20 minutes played against the Blues, the Stormers gave away a penalty on their own line for a high tackle. 

The Blues weren't chuffed, and Etzebeth got stuck in, giving Akira Ioane a solid shove to the chest. 

What followed was a proper game of rugby handbags - not an uncommon sight and something that, if we're all honest, we quite enjoy. 

But the replays showed that Etzebeth had raised a hand to Ioane's face, and he was off for 10 minutes. 

The Blues scored from the resulting penalty and then had a second try with Etzebeth off the field, making it a costly card. 

But coach Robbie Fleck, speaking after the game, said it was a "tough" situation for Etzebeth, with so much going on in the scuffle. 

"It’s tough ... everyone is having a go there. Both teams were certainly up for it," said Fleck.

"You push someone in the face and it is a yellow card ... that’s the law. There was a lot of pushing and shoving in people’s faces ... it’s hard to defend yourself. It is a yellow card and it put us under pressure.

"That’s rugby. It’s great to see that both teams are at it and I think there’s healthy respect there. You could see that when it broke up."

The Blues are a side with a lot of attacking flair, but on Friday they stood up to the Stormers physically as well.

"I think they knew that we were going to challenge them physically and they were up for it and so were we," said Fleck.

"That little incident on the line showed that they were in for it and so were we. We matched them. They’re a big side and they’ve got some big x-factor players and I felt that we nullified that."

The Blues also spent time with 14 men with wing Mutt Duffie first shown a yellow card for offside and then a second yellow and red for diving illegally on Cheslin Kolbe. 

Fleck was concerned with how his side struggled to capitalise on having an extra man.

"We didn’t convert when they had a yellow card which is something we have to work on. We have to understand that they’re a number down in the backline and we kept trying to hammer away at them up front where we should have let the ball go," said Fleck.

"I felt that they were smarter than us when it came to the yellow card and they were more effective."

Blues skipper James Parsons denied that it was part of the plan to target Etzebeth's discipline. 

"It wasn’t the plan at all. If you attack one of our brothers, we’re all going to jump in and it’s as simple as that," he said.

"It’s a team philosophy. It was war out there … that’s what it felt like at times."

The Stormers are next in action when they visit the Sharks on Saturday while the Blues host the Chiefs on Friday.