In what was a farcical first half in the rain of Durban, three players were red carded within twenty minutes as the Sharks and the Chiefs played out a tense Super Rugby round 6 contest. Arguably the worst of the three was this uncalled for kick to the face, that resulted in a month ban.
Just minutes after Chiefs hooker Hika Elliot was red carded for charging into a ruck with his shoulder, Springbok hooker Du Plessis was held by number eight Michael Leitch on the floor. In the process of releasing his foot, he lashed out, kicking Leitch in the face.
Referee Angus Gardner, who had a tough day out, had little choice but to send Du Plessis from the field. He has since received a four-week suspension from SANZAR.
“The player’s kick was pre-meditated, intentional and unprovoked,” explained SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Adam Casselden. “It was reckless, that is the player knew (or should have known) there was a risk of committing an act of foul play.
“In my opinion the offence was a grave one and the possibility of serious injury existed.
“The Chiefs’ No. 8 was in a vulnerable position on the ground. He did not see the kick, even if he had, he had limited means available to him, given the position of his arms and body, to protect himself from the player’s actions.
“Whilst the player claims he was frustrated by Chiefs’ No. 8 not releasing him from the tackle earlier that does not, in my opinion, entitle him to retaliate by kicking his opponent in the area of the head with a studded boot. The head is of course sacrosanct.”
Casseldon went on to state that Du Plessis has a very clean record, considering his long playing career and his only blemish being a suspension in 2008 for a dangerous tackle.
“The player has played professional rugby for approximately 12 years. He has played 77 Test matches for South Africa, 125 Super Rugby matches and in the order of 47 Currie Cup matches. Apart from a three week suspension in 2008 the player’s disciplinary record is unblemished.
“This is his first red card offence in a lengthy first class playing career [note: the sending off against New Zealand, from two yellow cards, was expunged from his record when it was found to be the incorrect referee decision].
“Having regard to the above mitigating factors and the overall culpability of the player’s offending, I was satisfied that the eight week entry point should be reduced to four weeks,” he concluded.
Liam Messam guilty of headlock but not punished
Chiefs skipper Liam Messam can be seen holding Sharks player Renaldo Bothma in a headlock just prior to this incident. Messam was cited for dangerous tackling, but admitted his guilt and was charged with commiting an act contrary to good sportsmanship.
Due to his good disciplinary record, no further punishment was handed out.