Lions in SA

Bok armbands could cost SARU

2009-07-10 06:45
The armband (Beeld)
Stephen Nell

Cape Town – The South African Rugby Union (SARU) will struggle to defend itself against a charge that the Springboks wearing armbands last weekend brought the game into disrepute. This is the opinion of Frikkie Erasmus of Erasmus Inc Attorneys, who often acts on behalf of rugby personalities in disciplinary hearings.

The International Rugby Board (IRB) on Monday indicated that it planned to charge SARU due to a contravention of its code of conduct. Springbok players wore armbands with the words "Justice 4 Bakkies" in last Saturday's third Test against the British and Irish Lions.

This followed after lock Bakkies Botha was suspended for two weeks for dangerous play in the second Test at Loftus Versfeld. His appeal against the suspension failed.

Although Botha's suspension was met with surprise even from the Lions camp, rugby's legal procedures may not openly be disrespected.

"The players overplayed their hand," said Erasmus. "Their contracts stipulate that their behaviour at all times should follow the directions of the IRB and SARU's code of conduct."

"Provision is made for procedures to address grievances. These channels were ignored and they followed their own minds."

Erasmus identifies the dishonouring of the jersey and disrespect of the IRB's disciplinary process as the two actions that could possibly have brought the game into disrepute and could therefore mean a fine for SARU.

 "The IRB's regulations clearly stipulate that SARU has full knowledge of them (rules) and is obliged to see to it that players meet them. Breaking these rules exposes SARU and the players to sanction," said Erasmus.

"Dishonouring the jersey brings the game into disrepute and the interests of the jersey sponsors were also negatively affected."

"According to the stipulations of the IRB's regulations, players are forced to accept the outcome of the disciplinary hearing and to let the matter rest."

Erasmus said the degree of the potential punishment SARU could face, may be aggravated if officials approved of the behaviour in public.

There was mixed reaction from SARU on the issue. The organisation's head president, Oregan Hoskins and the Bok coach Peter de Villiers didn't disapprove of the players' actions.

Hoskins expressed sympathy and De Villiers said at the news conference after the game that SA Rugby was a family and that everyone agreed with the statement on the South African Rugby Players Association website. It was stated here that the armbands were chosen in solidarity with Botha and that players wanted to send a message to the IRB to relook rule 10.4 (j), which Botha broke during the game.

However, SARU's executive head Johan Prinsloo said it is important that the players followed the correct grievances procedures so that they could solve the matter and not cause further problems.

The matter was discussed on Wednesday in Johannesburg at a SARU President's Council meeting. SARU is still waiting for a charge sheet from the IRB.


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