Cape Town – Of all people, Jean de Villiers has done so
little to deserve two malicious “coat-hangers” in the space of five Test
VIDEO: Ma'a Nonu's shoulder charge on Jean de Villiers
QUIZ: Tackle Sport24's highly addictive, yet almost impossible quiz!
As it happened: All Blacks v Springboks
How Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing rated the Boks
VIDEO: Nick Mallett hammers ref Romain Poite!
It's an r-effing disgrace!
Facebook petition to ban Romain Poite
Apart from being one of the cleanest players on the
top-flight rugby circuit worldwide, the veteran centre is also blossoming more
and more as Springbok captain, not only maintaining high personal performance
standards but also excelling for tactical expertise, calm decision-making and great
diplomacy in the role.
In short, I believe he is fast developing the sort of
leadership aura of modern Bok predecessors like Francois Pienaar, Gary
Teichmann and John Smit, even if it is true that he is yet to deliver any
front-line silverware in just over a year at the helm.
As much as anything, he is a remarkably uncomplaining
servant of whichever team he represents, whether it be the Stormers or
Springbok No 12 jersey, despite the fact that he is horrendously over-played at
both Super Rugby and Test level.
So De Villiers really warrants better than to have to endure
disgraceful threats to his bodily well-being from opponents – both no strangers
to foul play, note -- cynically flouting the pretty clear-cut tackle laws to
bring him crashing to ground while on the offensive and at reasonably full
The first in this year’s international season came in June
at Loftus, when Samoan wing bruiser Alesana Tuilagi stiff-armed him to the hard
Highveld deck and was swiftly red-carded and suspended for two weeks – at least
justice was seen to be decisively served there, especially as De Villiers had
done anything but “milk” the incident.
He even graciously accepted Tuilagi’s handshake immediately
after the assault, which for the offender was probably a bit like the
wife-beater thinking all was hunky-dory again after buying roses to appease her
for his vicious punch to her face.
But De Villiers was done a dirty once more at Eden Park on
Saturday, in an incident that unjustly melted rather into the background
because of prior controversies surrounding team-mate Bismarck du Plessis (largely
exonerated when it is all rather too late) that continue to provoke mass ire
back in South Africa.
This time, the midfielder was taken out in a crude shoulder
charge by Ma’a Nonu, his formidably burly opposite number, a second after
providing an off-load with his head turned sideways and thus particularly
vulnerable to an unseen, unsubtle and frankly cowardly whack.
Ironically, too, it came just a day or two after De Villiers
had spoken publicly of his “real respect” for Nonu, adding that he was “a good
guy off the field as well”.
In my own mind, this was a transgression more severe and
spiteful than the “second yellow” offence by Du Plessis – which led to his
costly permanent eviction on Saturday -- when he led with an elbow as
ball-carrier when challenged by New Zealand’s Liam Messam.
Heck, at least Messam could see him coming.
New Zealand Herald scribe Gregor Paul has wailed --
fortunately a voice in a relative wilderness, even in New Zealand -- that “the
second (Du Plessis) incident alone was a red card ... nasty, dangerous and
All the while Paul steers gloriously clear, in his sermon on
rugby impropriety, in even mentioning the Nonu matter, for which the culprit
got a stock yellow card with no further sanction seemingly in the pipeline.
Is it perhaps because Nonu has become such a routine
offender for dangerous tackles that Paul deems the issue too predictable to
even bother addressing?
“Unfortunately it’s something he does regularly,” noted
former All Black and television pundit Justin Marshall, stating the obvious to
many South Africans but at least showing a refreshing commitment to
impartiality. (Another New Zealand commentator then makes the point that it is
apparently Nonu’s fifth yellow card of the season.)
Neutral journalist Steve James, writing in England’s
broadsheet Daily Telegraph, revealingly said: “It was a tackle much, much worse
than that of Du Plessis.”
Unsurprisingly, Nonu has already featured in controversy in
earlier Castle Rugby Championship combat this season: he somehow escaped even a
10-minute “binning” for a daze-inducing shoulder barge on Wallaby prop James
Slipper in Wellington.
Defending Nonu afterwards, All Black coach Steve Hansen
said, suddenly producing tough-guy talk suspiciously absent in his judgement of
Du Plessis: “We’re not playing tiddlywinks. It’s a man’s game and I think
sometimes we get a wee bit carried away.”
Ah, I see.
I’ll bet you this much, too: if Ma’a Nonu’s name was Butch
James, he wouldn’t have the remotest chance of running out for the follow-up
Test between the Boks and All Blacks at Ellis Park in three weeks, would he?
And that should not be seen as any special defence of Butch
James, not an irregular presence in galleries of rogues.
When these old foes lock horns in Johannesburg on October 5
- and yes, I’m trying really trying hard to strip parochialism from my
thoughts - I would argue that Ma’a Nonu should be more of a marked man by the
match officials than the guy at the centre of the Auckland hullabaloo, Bismarck
du Plessis ...
*Follow our chief
writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing
Ma'a Nonu sees yellow (Getty Images)