Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - SANZAR’s decision not to impose any punishment on Highlanders wing Siale Piutau for retaliatory punching does not constitute a precedent that could come back to haunt the organisation, CEO Greg Peters said on Wednesday. VIDEO: Michael Rhodes's dangerous tackle
VIDEO: Jean Deysel's dangerous tackle
There has been widespread unhappiness that Piutau was exonerated of any sanction despite being found guilty by a SANZAR tribunal of foul play. Lions flank Michael Rhodes received a six-match ban
for a “dangerous headlock” on the Highlanders wing, which prompted Piutau to plant two punches to the back of Rhodes’s head.
A fight broke out as a result of the incident and Piutau is seen throwing another punch in the melee, but despite it being unlawful to retaliate and punching considered an offence, the wing was not handed any ban at all.
Judicial officer Nick Davidson said Piutau had escaped sanction because of "the exceptional circumstances" of the incident. "While the player admitted to foul play he had been seriously compromised in the incident involving Rhodes," he said.
"Piutau's reaction was that of someone who had been seriously endangered (and) to impose a sanction in these circumstances would not reflect the effect on Piutau of the incident and a reaction that was the product of shock rather than retaliatory intent."
There has been much concern that SANZAR have now created a precedent whereby retaliation can be a defence in a hearing, based on “shock” rather than “intent”.
But SANZAR CEO Peters denies this, saying while the decision was bold, it was a fair one which the SANZAR hierarchy supported.
“The Judicial officer was clear in his final decision that there was mitigating circumstances, and this allowed him to exercise discretion, as he can in terms of Regulation 17, and not impose a penalty,” Peters said. “He believed, after viewing the evidence, that it was more a reaction out of shock and that there was no retaliatory intent. This is clearly not a precedent, as there have been sanctions for striking before.
“The judicial officer acknowledged it was foul play, and as we have seen before, a punch thrown on the field doesn’t always result in a red card. There was a Reds player a few weeks back that also escaped sanction for punching and it is the nature of the circumstances. It isn’t a clear cut situation and it was mitigated by the extraordinary circumstances.”
Peters also rejected claims in some quarters that there was a bias against South African players by SANZAR judiciaries, but said there could be more consistency in decisions by the Southern Hemisphere governing body.
“There have been three cases in South Africa, cited by a South African citing commissioner, that were rejected by a South African judicial officer. We always do strive for consistency, and it is something we are constantly working on.
“It is not that one country is disadvantaged, but the nature of the process is that once you take it across countries and there are more people involved, there is subjectivity that comes into play. We are trying our best to make it a process of consistent subjectivity.”
Peters said he had confidence in the various citing commissioners but said there needed to be a more consistent dealing of punishment.
“We view the weekly citing reports of the incidence and we have the confidence in the citing commissioners that they are doing a good job in all three countries. The referred penalty by the judiciaries is more of a concern for us.”