Some of the greatest amateur rugby hits

RWC Players to Watch: Anthony Watson

Josh Kronfeld & Highlanders celebrate!

Jerry Collins appearance for club 2nd XV

George Gregan's halfback Masterclass

New Zealand hold onto Bledisloe Cup

Recap from Highlanders' historic win

Inside the Pride, in Africa, Part 3

Sonny Bill Williams warned for big hit

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Elvis Vermeulen yellow carded for huge hit on Zee Ngwenya

Clermont Auvernge kept up their impressive unbeaten home record with a 19-12 victory over Biarritz at the Stade Marcel Michelin on Friday night. They did so despite losing two players to the sin-bin, with one in particular carded for a massive tackle.

Clermont sit second behind Toulon at the top of the Top 14 table following a strong performance, this time thanks to am early try from Noa Nakaitaci, and 14 points from the boot of David Skrela.

In the second half there were three yellow cards as Biarritz first lost Damien Traille, and later Clermont loose forwards Elvis Vermeulen and Julien Bardy both left the field for ten minutes each.

In Vermeulen's case it was for a monster hit on Biarritz and USA Eagles flyer Zee Ngwenya, who came down with a high ball only to be greeted with a bit of whiplash.

Luckily he was okay, but Elvis left the building as he was sent to cool off for ten minutes as Ngwenya was deemed to still be in the air when the tackle came in.

The victory takes Clermont to an incredible 49 games unbeaten at Stade Marcel Michelin, in all competitions, a record that dates back to 2009. Below is a quick look at the big hit. 

Perfect timing, or a split second too early? Let us know below.

Posted by Rugbydump at 2:59 pm | View Comments (55)

Carl Hayman suspended for Zee Ngwenya spear tackle

Biarritz score a sensational team try against Montpellier

Biarritz's two fantastic tries from Harinordoquy and Ngwenya

Zee Ngwenya's great hat-trick against Gloucester

Tal Selley shown up by determined Zee Ngwenya

Takudzwa Ngwenya great try for the USA Sevens

Posted in Big Hits & Dirty Play

Viewing 55 comments

Matt October 30, 2012 6:10 pm

A fraction of a second later and that hit is a monster legit tackle. Zee was not completely in the air so I don't see it as malicious. The timing was really close on that one.

· Reply · Report

Ando October 30, 2012 6:14 pm

Can't see anything wrong with that - don't think he was taken in the air, by my reckoning (admittedly, the video's a little grainy...) his foot had just touched the ground when the hit came in. Game on!

· Reply · Report

Paul October 30, 2012 6:15 pm

That hit was about as perfect as ever you'll see! Unlucky to be carded really.

· Reply · Report

Theobit October 30, 2012 6:42 pm

Perfect timing!!! The ref decision is harsh... At worst a penalty, not a sin bin.

· · Reply · Report

JamesH October 30, 2012 9:50 pm

If its "perfect timing" why would you give a penalty?

· · Reply · Report

Colombes October 30, 2012 6:47 pm

if still in the air, yellow justified, but it's just a question of 1 second
that said, good to see the old Elvis put some hard tackles

· Reply · Report

RealMacaw October 30, 2012 6:48 pm

If you freeze frame it, it's actually a split second early so it's the correct call.

· Reply · Report

Danwarnermeanwell October 30, 2012 6:48 pm

If you stop the video exactly on 33 seconds, you can see that the contact is made with the arm a split second before Ngwenya's foot hits the ground. Too close to call with the naked eye in real time though...great hit and unlucky to be carded but probably just about to the letter of the law.

· Reply · Report

Mozart October 30, 2012 6:49 pm

Come on guys, he was still in the air, you can't see that ? Bloody hell...

· Reply · Report

ODave October 30, 2012 6:50 pm

Freeze framed contact looks like contact is a split second early but very unlucky. More importantly kudos for getting the phrase Elvis left the building in there RD

· · Reply · Report

Guy October 30, 2012 6:55 pm

Timing just a split second off, if you ask me.

Nevertheless: no bas intention by the tackler at all, just a fraction unlucky. According to the rules, imo the ref was right.

· Reply · Report

Ithilsul October 30, 2012 7:24 pm

A heartbeat too early, but too early anyway. No matter Ngwenya's toe tip has started to be in contact with the upper part of the longest grass, I still consider it "in the air".
Good decision, even if Vermeulen did not have a bad intention.

· Reply · Report

rufio October 30, 2012 7:26 pm

SUPER TACKLE. BUT just illegal. JUST

Maybe some clarification of the law is required here though. When the law states a player can not be tackled until they make contact with the ground, is that ANY contact, or if they mean FEET, is it one foot on the ground or 2!?

If you watch the video carefully, Ngwenya overstretches to get his leg down, probably thinking it would be better trying to get some purchase with the deck, rather than NONE!!! Fat lot of good that did him

· Reply · Report

Ricky Bobbyt October 30, 2012 7:32 pm

It was a penallty because Ngwenya didn't have two feet on the ground when he was tackled.

The tackler was unlucky but the rules are the rules.

If you can't see that he was in the air then you really shouldn't bother commenting on this post.

· Reply · Report

BoksKick October 30, 2012 8:30 pm

Pretty bold of you to be dictating who can and can't comment especially when you don't know the laws yourself. Only one foot must be on the ground, not tow a you've stated, for a player to be tackled... If not, then in theory a player could hop to the try line and never be hit.

Elvis was unlucky, just a fraction of a second later and this would have been hit of the week.

· · Reply · Report

Pretzel October 30, 2012 9:02 pm

LMAO "If not, then in theory a player could hop to the try line and never be hit."

Now that is something I'd love to see!

· · Reply · Report

browner October 30, 2012 10:38 pm


You've made yourself look silly.................

LAW 10.4 (i) Tackling the jumper in the air. A player must not tackle nor tap, push or pull the foot or feet of an opponent jumping for the ball in open play.

But then, did any Bok ever know or care about the foul play laws???

· Reply · Report

Pretzel October 30, 2012 11:14 pm

browner I fail to see why what you said makes bokskick look silly... I may has misread something but from what I can see, bokskick didn't say anything particularly contrary to the law...

· Reply · Report

katman October 31, 2012 9:18 am

browner, I'm afraid the only silly looking one here is you. You have posted nothing to contradict Bokskick's take on the law at all. As for your comment on Boks and foul play... sounds like that was pulled straight from your browner.

· · Reply · Report

Full Back November 01, 2012 12:31 pm

this refers to the player jumping for the this instance the player was in possession.
I agree with BoksKick, bold of you to be dictating who can or can't comment when you don't seem to know the rules....even when you quote them....the key thing here is "in the air", if one foot is touching the ground he's not "in the air".

· Reply · Report

Gunnar October 30, 2012 8:17 pm

The intention of the law is much more important than the letter of it. Even IF he touches the ground with a toe or two, the law is to protect players from being tackled while in the air (and therefor unable to protect themselfes).
The yellow card is OK since the tackler saw him in the air and could have waited a fraction of a second longer to let him land before tackling him. The tackler is ALWAYS responsible for the safety of the tackle. If it's not safe, don't tackle. Simple as that.

· Reply · Report

Full Back November 01, 2012 12:33 pm

If he had gone for the legs I'd agree with you, but he wrapped perfectly and accompanied the player to the ground...wouldn't call it dangerous in this case.

· Reply · Report

RedYeti October 30, 2012 8:30 pm

This was probably too close to call, even with replays, so I'm pretty happy for refs to err on the side of caution to protect the jumping player.

· · Reply · Report

Pretzel October 30, 2012 8:59 pm

Unlucky, I shall not bother freeze framing it, as others appear to have done so and rule that it was a split second early.

I am not sure whether the law stipulates that it is automatically a yellow card for tackling someone "in the air" ? I can't remember that one. I do find it is a very harsh yellow card though.

I'd have said penalty, no more...

· Reply · Report

browner October 30, 2012 10:28 pm

10.4.(e) Dangerous tackling.
A player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously.
Sanction: Penalty kick

(a) Any player who infringes any part of the Foul Play Law must be admonished, or cautioned
and temporarily suspended for a period of ten minutes’ playing time, or sent-off.

Referee decides the degree of offence.

Personally I would have merely cautioned, because of proper use of arms 'wraping' ....but er'ing as per TYLER's comment is prudent.

· Reply · Report

Pretzel October 31, 2012 11:42 am

I am not particularly cut up by the referee's decision, and of course I can totally see why he would err on the side of caution, but when you compare THIS to those "knee tackles" on a jumper, sending the jumper down head first which ALSO receive yellows it makes you think this was extra harsh as it was a "perfect tackle" ( I think perhaps the referee was influenced by the rushing in of players..

· Reply · Report

Tyler October 30, 2012 9:05 pm

I think if you examine why the law exists, it's to provide the jumping player a reasonable opportunity to protect himself. In this case, given the set of facts and circumstances, no such opportunity existed so the call will be early 99% of the time. Plus, the referee is the sole judge of law and fact, if he perceived it to be early, then it's early.

· · Reply · Report

browner October 30, 2012 10:08 pm

One toe landed-isn't landed, so it's illegal...........

However in a age of the "...sliding up the chest & knocking the head off- totally illegal tackle......" The It's really nice to see a proper wrap of the arms and a hit across the chest.

If I was in charge - tackles above the armpit would be banned.....
just look at concussion statistics and impact injury stats rising over the last 5 years ... someones going to get seriously hurt .....LAWMAKERS LISTEN TO THE WARNING

· Reply · Report

browner October 30, 2012 10:29 pm

Elvis ensures Ngwenya is "ALL SHOOK UP" !

· Reply · Report

browner October 30, 2012 10:30 pm

Elvis ensures Ngwenya is "ALL SHOOK UP" !

· Reply · Report

spicksandspecks October 31, 2012 12:42 am

At least it was a tackle was with arms rather than shoulder charge or taking legs out. But still clearly early and dangerous - no opportunity to plant feet or protect himself. Yellow maybe a tad harsh - you see people tackled earlier than that who get away with a penalty. Force of the tackle probably swayed the referee.

· Reply · Report

dweebrok October 31, 2012 12:51 am

French translation of the rules is IMO a bit clearer on this whole in-the-air tackle thing.

As pointed out, the rule is the tackle can't be made as long as the player isn't "on his feet". But in French, "on his feet" is translated by specific words ["sur ses appuis"], meaning more or less "as long as he can move again by his own, he can be tackled".

For that matter, safest way to avoid unnecessay yellows is to wait just a little bit more, otherwise Elvis ends up in jailhouse (rock) (sorry, couldn't resist).

· Reply · Report

Bluesland October 31, 2012 1:06 am

Looks good to me - perfect. Ngwenya loks to have one foot on the floor - it is certainly better than many tackles which go unpunished.

What do you expect Vermeulen to do - read a book until Ngwenya has both feet on the ground (in which case presumably he would run past Vermeulen). Or perhaps he should freeze frame his monitor to check!

· Reply · Report

gs8 October 31, 2012 2:26 am

this is where you need something call COMMON SENSE! it might well be technically illegal, but he was never going to get injured and i dont think he was. This game is getting more and more like football, they might as well just get rid of contact altogether with decisions like that.

· Reply · Report

Frenchie October 31, 2012 5:10 am

@ Browner
I wish i had told that one...very funny!

· Reply · Report

Kenzo October 31, 2012 6:44 am

Nothing wrong with that. Penalties or cards should only be given when a player is a certain height from the floor, ie more chance of being tipped over. Techincally your feet are off the floor at a point in time when running, and probably a lot higher than his were when he was smashed.

Just looked worse than it actually was, cracking hit.

· Reply · Report

Pretzel October 31, 2012 11:48 am

Good point about the running feet off the ground, I have seen a few smashing tackles where a player was "off the ground" during their run.

Whilst I do agree that this was not really yellow card worthy, I have to disagree with the height from the floor side of things, only because it would not be particularly feasible, also I feel rugby needs a certain element of "grey area" around the laws (only a small shading) so that referees can hopefully use their "sensible" discretion, and not be slammed when they haven't made a perfect call... can you imagine the digital rulers come out on the footage after a player was taken out in the air but NO card was issued and the digital rulers tell us that it should have been a yellow... etc... its a way to create another nasty debate/dispute between players/fans/officials..

· Reply · Report

katman October 31, 2012 9:33 am

Come on, Elvis, only fools rush in.

· · Reply · Report

macmurchu October 31, 2012 12:27 pm

Ha! Technicality on the unbeaten record in Stade Marcel Michelin, they've not been beaten there for a long time but Leinster beat them in the semi of the '11-'12 Heineken Cup in Stade Chaban-Delmas, moved for the extra capacity. Technically a home game. The fiends.

· Reply · Report

Rugbydump October 31, 2012 5:25 pm

Yep, a home game, but not at Stade Marcel Michelin, which is where they are unbeaten in 49 games.

· Reply · Report

anon October 31, 2012 3:28 pm

when refs start carding hits like this players will fade off big tackles due to fear of being carded, that was a legit tackle and its embarrassing the referee interfered. Its a contact sport!

· Reply · Report

marty October 31, 2012 8:54 pm

hahaha! Good one Browner, all shook up indeed. And by the way, this is perfect timing, his right foot is on the ground

· Reply · Report

Evan McRitchie October 31, 2012 9:05 pm

I think it's a split second to early. However the biggest thing that I think the card was given for is the fact that the tackler didnt think to consider slowing up going into contact. The hit was going to be made tackler in the air or not. There was no consideration otherwise

· Reply · Report

Gonzoman October 31, 2012 10:28 pm

The rule is there to make sure that the player jumping for the ball has the opportunity to protect himself in the tackle. In this case, while it is debatable whether or not Ngwenya had a foot on the ground, he is clearly still recovering from the jump and in no position to protect himself (good thing he used good fielding technique on the take-off!).

In practical use, the yellow card is not simply used to punish dangerous or cynical play, but is one of the tools referees have to manage the game. Perhaps the referee felt that Elvis and/or Clermont had been playing on and over the edge. If the referee felt that dangerous or reckless hits were becoming a trend, or felt that if he did not take action they would become an issue, he is perfectly justified in issuing a yellow card; it is largely up to his discretion.

My opinion: whether or not there was a foot on the ground, it was a dangerous tackle. Not Elvis' fault...when you play on the edge sometimes you find yourself on the wrong side of the proverbial line. Definitely a penalty, and the card is at the discretion of the referee. He's a professional and he was there...I trust his judgement.

· Reply · Report

Pretzel October 31, 2012 11:06 pm

The problem I have with this whole "still recovering from the jump" is that it is a bit difficult to determine... I mean I'm a second row/back row, and I hammered a number 8 who jumped to catch a ball JUST as his feet touched the ground (he still had his hands high in the air)... it was a brilliant tackle (if I say so myself) and according to many in the crowd it looked spectacular, as a result of the tackle he knocked the ball on, it was scooped up by our scrum half who ran in for a try... now if I'd let him land solidly brought his arms in, prepared himself for the hit, I'd have had to wait around for about 3-4 seconds, then I'd have lost all momentum, he may have handed the ball to someone else etc etc...

I always saw the laws as "feet off the ground, don't tackle. Feet on the ground, fair game"... so I really don't understand this whole "toes on the ground means he wasn't ready for the hit etc"....

The other way I interpret the laws are in the way that they are to protect a player who is 5ft off the ground from having his legs taken from under him, there was never going to be an injury with this tackle which would could not have been caused by ANY other standard "feet firmly on the ground" hit...

I think player safety is one thing, and apparently the freeze frames show Zee was a split second off the ground, so I am happy for the referee to err on the side of caution as far as he saw and give the penalty, the yellow however was harsh. I do agree with you that perhaps this was a string of many offences by Clermont and perhaps the referee was making a stand there and then.

· Reply · Report

Guy November 01, 2012 10:06 am

Pretzel, I totally agree with you and not so much with Gonze. My opinion: the ref decided Zee was in the air, tackle illegal. Just a matter of timing, Elvis took the gamble and it didn't pay off.

As soon as 'the player has to be able to defend himself' becomes the leading motive, it will become illegal to tackle a player when he is catching a ball above shoulder height. So that really can't be the issue here.

Besides: this tackle wasn't even 'dangerous'. It was well placed and he put the player down is a proper position and had Zee landed a split second earlier it would still have featured on this site but then just because it is a big, copybook hit. The thing with this tackle is that it was illegal according to the letter of the law, or at least it was judged as such by the ref, hence the card.

· Reply · Report

Gonzoman November 01, 2012 7:35 pm

I agree to a certain extent with both Guy and Pretzel...basically, the law was put in to make sure players weren't getting hit in the air, and I think at the time it was put in and amended, it seemed pretty cut and dry. Of course, the game has progressed, players are bigger and faster and timing is tighter.

I agree that it was a copybook tackle...I even agree with Full Back's post after this one...Ngwenya probably would have been hurt more if he'd had his feet planted.

I do however think that the call was the right one. The law says that a player can not be hit if he is in the air. Zee was in the air, Elvis timed it a little wrong, no harm done and penalty called. The letter of the law is the way it is because laws have to be as clear and easily applied as possible; ergo the "feet on the ground" application.

Where it gets tricky is the application, and that's the big secret to good refereeing. As objective as you make the laws, they are still applied subjectively. Referees are affected by the tone of the game, their personal views of things, previous experience, and a whole host of things. Ultimately, refs have to officiate as best they can based on two questions: is it safe, and is it fair?

Clearly this ref felt it wasn't safe, and that the game as a whole was getting unsafe/unfair enough to warrant a card.

Within the letter of the law, the correct call was made. Within the spirit of this particular game, the ref made a judgement call, and I have to assume he had a better feel for things than I do.

· Reply · Report

Full Back November 01, 2012 12:41 pm

Hang on a sec, I reckon if Ngwenya had planted his feet it would have hurt more in this case...Elvis was going to clear him out in any case. If he'd had the time to lower himself if might of ended up being high, all you can do in this instance is tense up your torso and get your arms in front of your sternum...which he did.
While we're talking about what he had time to do, notice he pulled his legs up to stay in the air that fraction longer...true pro.
Tough decision in my opinion.

· Reply · Report

filth November 01, 2012 10:35 am

Hahaha that is ridiculous. There is nothing wrong with that tackle. God rugby is going soft.

· Reply · Report

Cameron November 01, 2012 3:34 pm

It was a good tackle. If the referee had any doubt it should have been a penalty as it was in fast time a fifty fifty call. If players are constantly worried about cards given for tackles like that it will take the fun out of the game.

· Reply · Report

stroudos November 01, 2012 4:46 pm

This decision is total bullshit. The not tackling people in the air law is designed to prohibit dangerous shit like that time Alesana Tuilagi took Mark Cueto out when he was in mid-air (Tuilagi's shoulder to Cueto's ankle):

There's little to no danger here. It's a cracking tackle and should be applauded, not punished.

Anyway, Rob Kearney has demonstrated time and again the right technique for avoiding being taken out in the air: ie as you launch yourself upwards make sure your leading foot is extended in front of you with the studs the first thing to come into contact with any would-be tackler. (In other words make the tackler think if he comes near you he'll get a boot in the face!).

· Reply · Report

Pretzel November 01, 2012 11:31 pm

I have to agree and disagree with you here. Whilst I firmly agree with almost everything you said "Cueto getting tackled" etc... I have to disagree with the application of the law to THIS scenario. Whilst I AGREE that there was little to no danger here (certainly no more than a standard tackle) he was "technically" in the air (according to many) therefore I think it is a fair ruling. Had Elvis been a split second later with the tackle then it would be applauded.

Personally I feel this tackle should be somewhat applauded, however also marked down as a "shame you didn't delay slightly Elvis!" type tackle....

· Reply · Report

Martin November 02, 2012 12:10 am

Seems Ngwenya hasn't learned the Lee Byrne trick of facing your studs to the tackler. That way Vermeulen would have been YC'd AND stretchered off! But all legal of course....

· Reply · Report

rugbyrhino84 November 05, 2012 11:00 pm

Watching in full speed, it was questionable, and the referee erred on the side of caution. We can't tell what the referee actually saw from his vantage point, so it is hard to tell. Watching the replay, it looks like a perfectly timed hit. These kinds of hits are always going to depend on the vantage point of the official. If the referee was one or two steps to his left or right, the call could have been a clean hit.

· Reply · Report

Commenting as Guest | Register or Login

All comments are moderated and will be removed immediately if offensive.