Cape Town - Waratahs duo Silatolu Latu and Will Skelton have been banned after being found guilty of foul play during their 32-22 Super Rugby win over the Crusaders in Sydney at the weekend.
Both players were found guilty of contravening law 10.4 (j), Lifting Tackle, when they jointly tip-tackled a Crusaders player.
The referee for the match, Marius van der Westhuizen, issued a yellow card to hooker Latu, but lock Skelton remained on the field.
Upon further review of the match footage, the citing commissioner deemed in his opinion the incident had met the red card threshold for foul play.
Latu has subsequently been banned for four weeks, while Skelton received a two-week ban.
The SANZAR judicial hearing was heard by Robert Stelzner, while Mike Mika was the former professional player who attended as a judicial technical adviser.
In his finding, Stelzner ruled the following:
"As the judicial officer, I considered all the evidence before me including the video footage, additional video provided by the Waratahs, citing commissioner's report, medical information for the Crusaders' player, Sam Whitelock, who was involved in the incident and the submissions made for the player by his legal representatives, Anthony Black SC and Bruce Hodgkinson.
"After taking all relevant facts into consideration, I found the incident to have a lower end entry point for breaching of 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackle which stipulates a four-week suspension.”
Concerning Latu, Stelzner commented:
"Mitigating factors included the fact that the player admitted his contravention of the law, his youthfulness and clean disciplinary record and the character references supplied on his behalf.
“This resulted in the aforesaid period of four weeks being reduced by two weeks. A deterrent of two weeks was however added for this type of offending as it is an action that has sought to be eliminated from the game.
“Latu played a more dominant role in the tackle when compared to the actions of his team-mate, Will Skelton, who received a suspension of two weeks.
"The player’s playing schedule is such that there is a significant chance of the Waratahs being involved in the Super Rugby qualifier and/or semi-finals. A four-week suspension will in all probability result in him missing the next four matches of the competition. This is a meaningful sanction.
"The player is accordingly found to have contravened Law 10.4 (j) and is suspended up to and including Saturday, June 20, 2015."
Concerning Skelton, Stelzner commented:
"Mitigating factors which were taken into account included the player’s clean record, his relative youthfulness and the good character references supplied on his behalf. This resulted in the sanction being reduced by two weeks.
"Two offending players, Skelton and Silatolu Latu, were involved in the incident. Latu played a more active role in the lifting and twisting of their opponent, Sam Whitelock, contributing more significantly to the end result than Skelton. Skelton nevertheless also lifted and twisted Whitelock in the tackle, which is why he too was found to have breached the applicable Law.
"Given the lesser extent of his involvement however, the sanction in the case of Skelton did not in my view warrant an increase from the entry level sanction to serve as a deterrent. He was unaware of the actions of his fellow player, Silatolu Latu, and although he dropped his opponent after he had lifted and turned him, it appeared that Latu was the player who had continued with the tip tackle causing their opponent to land in the manner in which he ultimately did.
"The player was found to have contravened Law 10.4 (j) and is suspended up to and including Saturday, June 6, 2015.”