Vodacom Super 14

'I won't be wary of ref'

2009-05-13 08:21
Brett Sheehan (File)

Durban - Brett Sheehan is confident South African referee Marius Jonker won't target him in Friday's Waratahs-Lions game, following the Waratahs halfback's acquittal of a dangerous tackle charge at a SANZAR disciplinary hearing.

"I have been cleared and the judiciary has seen that," Sheehan said after he was cleared of any guilt for his collision with Sharks outside-centre Brad Barritt last Saturday. "I have played 50-something [Super] games and it's my first incident. I don't think I'm seen as a dirty player or will be targeted."

The Waratahs halfback certainly appeared more comfortable in his borrowed suit and tie as he left the SANZAR hearing at the KwaZulu-Natal Rugby Union offices in Durban on Monday than when he arrived.

There was plenty of relief in the room after the 90-minute hearing when judiciary officer Dekka Govender accepted the submissions by Sheehan's defence team, which included lawyer Stephan Weyers, Waratahs manager Chris Webb and high-performance analyst Anthony Wakeling, whose video evidence proved crucial.

Their case against the charge by citing commissioner Andy Prior was that Sheehan's collision with Barritt in the 79th minute of Waratahs' 16-12 win over the Sharks at ABSA Stadium was unintentional.

The outcome of the hearing means Sheehan can spend his last days as a Waratah - he will move to the Force next year - on the field rather than on the sidelines.

After last week earning his 50th cap for Waratahs by coming on to replace Luke Burgess at the 60th minute, Sheehan can also look forward to reaching another milestone on Friday. The game at Coca-Cola Park (formerly Ellis Park) will be his 50th in five years of Super rugby, which includes four seasons with the Reds.

"I am very happy, although I was always confident because it wasn't an intentional high tackle or a shoulder charge," he said. "It was just an unfortunate collision and I am glad that Brad is doing well.

"It would have been very bitter to be sitting in the stands or to fly home. I probably would have had to fly home. But fortunately it has been overturned. I am ecstatic to be playing on Friday.

"Hopefully, there are a few games left in us. Hopefully, things will go our way and we play in the semis."

The main thrust of Sheehan's defence was that the incident was not intentional. He cited as proof of his innocence his reaction to check on Barritt after the sickening shoulder charge and later when he was carted off the field.

"We were both travelling at a fairly high pace at each other," he said. "When I saw him offload the ball I tried to pull out. I definitely had a tackle [planned] but because our momentum was going the same way, I covered my face in a reflex action. As I did that, my shoulders came up.

"The speed, the weather and not being able to stop and move like you usually would came into it. It wasn't a dirty play. I admit there was contact but it was just a collision. And the first thing I did when he went down was to check he was all right.

"Obviously he wasn't too well then. Then I asked him as he was getting stretchered off in the medi-cab, and said: 'Mate, are you OK?' He gave me the thumbs up, so I thought he was OK."

Sheehan was again reassured that Barritt had recovered on Sunday night when he was having dinner with a friend who knew Barritt and he "gave him a call and gave him a bit of a gee up - he was OK".

Waratahs coach Chris Hickey said: "It's good news for Brett and the team.

"Hopefully this will not be his last game for the Waratahs. But I am sure that Brett will be pleased to now go out with his boots on, rather than sitting on the bench getting some splinters in his backside."


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