Lions flanker Kwagga Smith has been suspended for 4 weeks after pleading guilty to contravening Law 10.4(i), after he was red carded for taking out fullback David Havili in the air during Saturday’s Super Rugby Final loss to the Crusaders in Johannesburg.
The red card, recognised as being the correct call in line with current World Rugby directives, had an impact on the match, as the Lions had to fight hard for a full half with just 14 men.
While all the talk pre-match was about the lack of neutral referees, South African Jaco Peyper showed his nerve and made the decision – along with his TMO – to send Smith from the field after a poorly mistimed challenge on the man in the air.
The SANZAAR Foul Play Review Committee accepted a guilty plea from Smith on Monday, for contravening Law 10.4(i): Tackling, pushing, pulling, colliding with or otherwise making contact with an Opponent who is jumping for the ball in a line out or in open play where there is no realistic prospect of the player competing for the ball.
In his finding, Foul Play Review Committee Chairman Nigel Hampton QC ruled the following:
“With respect to sanction the Foul Play Review Committee deemed the act of foul play merited a mid-range entry point of 8 weeks. However, taking into account mitigating factors including the Player’s good Judicial record and the Player’s admission of guilt at the first available opportunity the Foul Play Review Committee reduced the suspension to 4 weeks.”
The incident, more reckless than malicious, highlights the possible need for a look at the effect red cards have on matches, specifically when accidental.
Both coaches agreed that the sending off affected the outcome of the contest, leaving a Cup Final with 40 minutes of an uneven contest.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann reiterated his his opinion on the matter post match.
“I don’t think 62 000 people paid to see a 15 versus 14 game,” said the former Springbok, now heading off to couch Gloucester in the Aviva Premiership.
“The player can get disciplined afterwards, and I’ll stand by that, especially if it’s not out of the law in the sense that it’s a kick to the face or a punch or dirty play.
“I can’t say too much… I have to respect what the officials say. One must take into account that if a player jumps in the air going forward, where does he go if somebody touches his legs.”
The incident could be seen in the official match highlights, but can also be watched below