Dunedin - Highlanders prop Chris King is a very lucky man to get away with a one-week ban for hitting Lions captain Warren Whiteley in the face.
King was cited for the incident, which happened in the 54th minute of Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby game between the two sides in Dunedin and received a yellow card from match officials shortly after the incident.
But the ban is likely to bring into context the consistency of Sanzar’s judicial rulings again as King got off a lot more leniently than Bulls captain Flip van der Merwe, who was given three weeks for a punch during the team’s recent tour of Australasia.
In the video, King changes direction and brings his elbow up, striking Whiteley on the chin. The incident happens away from the ball carrier Marnitz Boshoff and is a blatant professional foul. Considering so many players in the past have been banned for long periods for less, the judicial result is a farce.
South African players and coaches often complain they receive harsher sentences from Sanzar’s tribunals, and a lot of work has gone into this behind the scenes to ensure the process is fair to all, and not lopsided.
But in a season where other players have not been cited for punching and Van der Merwe has been forced to miss three crucial games for the Vodacom Bulls, King’s slap on the wrist is proof once again that the laws are not equal for all.
Sanzar Duty Judicial Officer Peter Ingwersen assessed the case.
“In his finding, Mr Ingwersen ruled the following:” the Sanzar release said.
"Having viewed the video footage and the Citing Commissioner`s report, I held a teleconference with Mr King and his counsel Mr Aaron Lloyd. King accepted a breach for the cited offence.
"King, assisted by his Counsel, explained the dynamics of the incident and submitted that he had no intention of striking his opponent but that the raising of the arm and the contact was an unintentional product of a blocking action. It is common cause that no injury resulted and that the opponent continued playing after some brief attention.
"I concurred with Mr Lloyd`s submission that the incident had an entry point in the low range which starts at a two week suspension. No aggravating circumstances prevailed and given the player`s exemplary and clean record in a long and distinguished career, along with the fact that he accepted responsibility for his actions and pleaded guilty, I reduced the suspension to one week.
"The player`s playing schedule was considered and the effect of the suspension is that he is suspended up to and including 17 May 2014."
“All Sanzar disciplinary matters are in the first instance referred to a Duty Judicial Officer hearing to provide the option of expediting the judicial process. For a matter to be dispensed with at this hearing, the person appearing must plead guilty and accept the penalty offered by the DJO.”
Whiteley luckily wasn’t injured in the incident and played on.
But whether the decision is consistent with what South African players normally receive, is another argument altogether, and for that, Sanzar still has a long way to go.