This past weekend’s Super Rugby action was blighted by several foul play incidents.
No fewer than three red cards were dished out in matches involving South African teams and it was understandable that it dominated much of the post-match talk.
Sharks captain Ruan Botha set a poor example when he shoulder-charged a Jaguares player at a ruck late in their loss in Buenos Aires on Friday night.
In Saturday’s clash between the Bulls and Brumbies in Pretoria, the visiting side’s hooker Folau Fainga’a was sent off for a headbutt, while in the match between the Stormers and Lions in Cape Town, the home side’s wing Raymond Rhule saw red when he leapt in the air as Lions opponent Ruan Combrinck executed a chip-kick, poleaxing Combrinck in the process.
As is customary for all players receiving red cards, a disciplinary hearing followed.
In addition, there was also a hearing for Stormers centre JJ Engelbrecht, who received a yellow card for a dangerous lifting tackle on a Lions player.
Later in the match Engelbrecht was also involved in a dangerous clean-out at a ruck.
I felt he deserved another yellow card - and subsequent red - and it appears SANZAAR felt likewise as the midfielder was issued a warning by the citing commissioner.
A SANZAAR disciplinary ruling states that “if a player has received two warnings or a combination of a warning and a yellow card during a match, he shall be treated for disciplinary purposes as if he has been sent off."
Therefore, Engelbrecht was also called to appear before a disciplinary hearing, along with the three above-mentioned players.
Fair play to SANZAAR for acting swiftly - foul play needs to be eradicated from the game at all costs.
The governing body was also quick to announce on Monday that the four players had received punishments after pleading guilty to their various indiscretions.
Botha was suspended for four weeks, Fainga'a for one week, Rhule for three, while Engelbrecht copped a one-week ban.
However, what SANZAAR failed to disclose was that the three South African players' punishments should be taken with a pinch of salt.
The Super Rugby tournament is set for a break in the June Test window, and with the South African teams already on "leave" for a month, it means the banned SA trio will not miss any meaningful rugby!
South African rugby fans in the past have been quick to complain of our players being harshly treated by citing commissioners. However, in this situation we've certainly not drawn the short straw.
The Australian teams are still in action this weekend, so Fainga'a can feel aggrieved that he has to sit out a match, while the SA offenders will be allowed to resume action when the tournament restarts on the weekend of June 29/30.
In this regard, SANZAAR’s lack of dishing out appropriate punishment beggars belief.
Do they really believe that the respective players - none of whom have been selected for the Springbok squad - would be making appearances for their provinces in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge?
The June Test window will come as a welcome break for Super Rugby players not involved in international rugby and them playing in a second-rate domestic competition will not appease franchise owners.
It's also doubtful the players will learn from their indiscretions without proper punishment.
For me, a solution is simple: just change the suspension criteria from "weeks" to "matches".
That would see the banned trio serving time for their "crimes" when their teams are again in action.
In this scenario, Botha and Rhule would not have played any further part in this year’s event and would surely have learnt harsh lessons.
It’s a no-brainer!
Herman Mostert works at Sport24, is a struggling golfer and enjoys tennis...
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