Cape Town - SANZAR should be applauded for appealing the decision to rescind Frans Steyn’s red card for a dangerous tackle.
READ: Steyn cleared of tip-tackle
The Sharks centre was sent off after performing a tip-tackle on Chiefs flyhalf Aaron Cruden in their Super Rugby clash in Durban last Saturday.
Steyn was cited following the game, but was then found not guilty at a subsequent hearing, with the red card expunged from his record.
However, SANZAR has clearly felt justice was not served and appealed the decision on Wednesday.
Steyn pleaded his innocence and Advocate Jannie Lubbe SQ, who conducted the hearing, found him innocent.
Innocent on what grounds? How do you justify a player lifting another player’s feet, taking him through the horizontal, and dumping/driving him head first into the ground!?
It’s as clear as daylight that Law 10.4 (j) (lifting tackling) was contravened and anything but a red card on the day was the correct decision made.
Part of Lubbe’s explanation read: "It was also found that two other Sharks players were involved in the tackle and that one of the players, Cobus Reinach, played a significant part in what appeared to be a serious and dangerous tackle.
"A detailed analysis of the execution of the tackle by Steyn clearly showed that he executed a perfectly legitimate tackle on Aaron Cruden, but that the intervention of his team-mates applying additional and external forces to the dynamic tackle situation resulted in what the referee deemed to be a breach of Law 10.4 (j).”
Why should it matter that other players were involved in the tackle?
The law clearly states that it is the responsibility of the lifting player(s) to bring the tackled player to ground safely. In this instance, Steyn was the lifting player and he lifted Cruden above the horizontal, before driving his head into the ground.
Lubbe further commented: "The referee and his assistant on the available evidence at their disposal came to the conclusion that Cruden got lifted in the tackle by Steyn, and made contact with the ground with his head first.
"The video material before me clearly shows that Cruden made contact with the ground first with his right hand and upper arm, followed by shoulder and back.
"The momentum of the tackle then caused him to roll so that his head and neck made contact with the ground.”
Where does the law state that because the tackled player’s arm and shoulder touched the ground before his head, that it becomes less severe a situation? It’s natural for a player to extend his arm downwards when realising he’s about to get dumped head first into the ground - in order to save his life!
Retired South African referee, Jonathan Kaplan, agreed with the initial decision to hand Steyn a red card.
Kaplan said earlier this week: “The Steyn incident was complex but in my opinion correct. It is the responsibility of the tackler who lifts an opponent off the ground to ensure that he gets down safely. The fact that someone else joined in the tackle is unfortunate, and was used in mitigation of sentence, but doesn’t excuse what happened.”
It’s pretty simple that Steyn deserved to see red and therefore SANZAR should feel within their rights to appeal the decision.
It’s dangerous to set a precedent where a player can escape without punishment for an offence so severe and the legitimacy of the hearing outcome should be questioned.
It was also interesting to note that, along with Lubbe, De Wet Barry attended as the judicial technical adviser, being a former professional player. Barry was renowned in his playing days as being a serial offender when it came to dangerous tackles.
We are playing a dangerous game if we let our players emerge unscathed after clearly committing indiscretions of a highly dangerous nature.
*A SANZAR Appeals Committee, chaired by Terry Willis, with Nigel Hampton QC and Robert Stelzner SC as members, was initially intended to hear the appeal on Friday. However, the hearing has since been postponed to Tuesday, March 31 at 08:00 (SA time).