SANZAR on why Steyn was banned
Johannesburg - Southern Hemisphere controlling body SANZAR has revealed why they thought it was necessary to appeal Francois Steyn’s judicial hearing – because they thought the conclusion that Advocate Jannie Lubbe came to in finding Steyn not guilty was “a clear error of fact or law”.
Asked by supersport.com for clarification on why they felt it necessary, SANZAR replied with a statement setting out their reasoning on why the appeal was necessary, according to the supersport.com website.
The appeal – chaired by a panel from all three countries – found the original finding of not guilty invalid, and sentenced Steyn to five weeks off the game (which because of the bye in round 11 means a four match ban).
The result has infuriated Sharks supporters and drawn into question the consistency of the judicial findings in Super Rugby with the judicial process widely being considered a lottery by teams involved in the competition.
SANZAR says what differentiated this case from all others is the fact that the original ruling said there was no foul play – primarily because the original finding accepted that with Cobus Reinach part of the tip tackle, it wasn’t all Francois Steyn’s fault. The original hearing expunged the red card from Steyn’s record.
“Under World Rugby Regulation 17 (which SANZAR is bound by) the tournament organiser has a right of appeal. As a result, SANZAR has this right in its own rules. The right of appeal will only rarely be exercised as there is a threshold that must be met,” the statement read.
“SANZAR cannot appeal simply because it doesn’t like a particular decision or because SANZAR would have imposed a different sanction than the Judicial Officer had SANZAR been the decision maker hearing the case. The onus is on SANZAR to prove that the Judicial Officer made a clear error of fact or law in reaching his decision and therefore the decision was wrong.
“What differentiated this case from others is that the Judicial Officer ruled that there was no foul play, that the referee had made an incorrect decision in issuing a red card and that the red card should be expunged from the player's record.”
SANZAR goes on to say this could have grave implications on how tip tackles are refereed in the game going forward.
“In SANZAR's view, he made clear errors both of fact and law in making the findings he did and the Judicial Officer's decision would cause real doubt as to how these type of tackles should be treated by referees, Citing Commissioners, Judicial Officers and ultimately those playing and coaching the game.
“Player safety is paramount. Tip tackles in breach of Law 10.4(j) have a high risk of serious - or even catastrophic - injury and need to be eradicated from the game. For this reason, having considered all the evidence, SANZAR reached a view that the original decision by the Judicial Officer was wrong and SANZAR exercised its right of appeal.
“The Appeal Committee consisted of three highly qualified and very experienced Judicial Personnel (one from each SANZAR country). The Appeal Committee's full written decision will be available in the coming days and this will provide the full rationale for the decision it has reached.”
What is interesting though, is the implications this now holds for judiciaries in the future of the competition, as a clear message that tip tackles need to be severely punished has been sent out, no matter what the circumstances.
Neither SANZAR nor SARU have indicated if they will be reviewing Advocate Lubbe’s participation in future tribunals, given the rebuke that the appeals process found in the original decision.