It’s Broken!!

Sanzaar’s Judicial Review System Is Broken!

 

Sanzaar’s Judicial Review system comes under the spotlight again. Their most recent forays into dispensing “justice” has again raised the hackles of rugby enthusiasts across the world.

Wildly disparate sentences, strange decisions regarding a players’ previous indiscretions, the ongoing application of frankly spurious “mitigating factors” and the application of sanctions that have no real impact all deserve scrutiny.

If one carefully considers the Judicial findings and the sanctions imposed by Sanzaar’s Foul Play Review Committee and various Judicial Reviews, the whole system seems to be malfunctional. Add the disparity between sentences handed to players from one country to those handed to players from other countries and the question of possible bias must also be questioned.

Consider some of these anomalies:

Two players from the Crusaders are found guilty of clear breaches of the Law, with blows to the faces of opponents. One of the opponents has to leave the field as a result of the severity of the blow. Both players receive a mild 2-week suspension, well below the prescribed sentence recommended by World Rugby, and both are praised for their previously clean records, despite one being an acknowledged serial offender!

A player from a different franchise hits a player from the Crusaders with a high tackle, and gets 5 weeks!

Something wrong there!

World Rugby very carefully stipulates the procedures and processes governing Judicial Reviews of incidents of Foul Play. They also provide an extensive list of the recommended sentences for the various indiscretions and acts of foul play.

Judicial Officers are allowed to exercise some discretion in considering the severity of the action, and possible mitigating circumstances. All this is well and good, and deserves our support.

Inconsistency

The problem that we find in the Southern Hemisphere and particularly with Sanzaar’s Judicial Reviews and the findings of their Foul Play Review Committee is the wildly inconsistent sentences and sanctions handed to players.

There have been justifiable complaints that players from New Zealand get “special” treatment and much milder punishment than do those of the other members of the Sanzaar conglomerate. These complaints are not new, they date back over some years.

In my article reviewing the Super 15 season I banged on about the system of judicial review and the manner in which it was failing both the sport of rugby and the myriads of spectators who are the lifeblood of the game. I have repeated these sentiments in no less than seven articles since then.

Also back to 2015, I wrote on the subject, giving examples of a weekend where three such incidents of assault occurred, two of which received the gentlest slap on the wrist, while the third received a 5-week suspension.

The next week a player wrapped his arm around another’s neck, tightened his grip in a chokehold. He was cited, and received a caution for “unsportsmanlike behaviour” and no further punishment. In the same game a player (Bismarck du Plessis) shoulder charged the head and neck area of an opponent, correctly received a red card for his effort, and the judicial official suspended him for just one week!

Yet a similarly direct assault on another player, involving tackle by Frans Steyn resulted in an 8-week suspension.

Back in 2016 I wrote an article on this subject, quoting incidents that happened in various games.

When the Blues visited Newlands, a Blues lock delivered a series of punches to the face of a Stormer. He was shown a red card for his deliberate attack on an opponent. He received a one-week suspension for his indiscretion, his suspension to coincide with his team’s bye weekend!

Later in 2016 I again sounded off about the ludicrous one-week suspension handed to Tolu Latu for punching Matt Toomua. The suspension was made laughable by the provision that he could serve the suspension during the Waratah’s bye week. The very next week we saw the Lion’s Warwick Tecklenburg suspended for a week for “recklessly” charging into a ruck.

Just one day earlier serial offender Jerome Kaino was given a “citing commissioner’s warning” for a dangerous high tackle. No other action was taken against the All Black.

Somehow Tecklenburg’s offense was considered far worse than Kaino’s tackle – despite Tecklenburg’s “recklessness” not being evident in the video footage. Tecklenburg also denied that he had made contact with Jordy Reid. Despite the lack of evidence the Judicial panel found him guilty!

On the 4th of April of 2018, on this website, I posted an article titled “Judicial Jokers” after Taniela Tupou was exonerated by a Judicial review after what would have been considered criminal assault if the incident had occurred in a public area other than a rugby field.

The sheer inconsistency of the findings and sentences handed down by Sanzaar’s Judicial Review system deserves to be scrutinized by World Rugby.

There is something wrong with the system, and it needs fixing.

The 2018 Findings:

Consider the following:

Joe Moody smashes a forearm into Kurtley Beale’s  neck and face. No card is issued as match officials ignore the incident. Citing Commissioner deems it a red card offence. Punishment? A two week suspension.
Owen Franks delivers a swinging forearm to the head of James Parsons in a ruck. Parsons leave the field with concussion. Match official says it is “too late” to issue a card or sanction”. Citing Commissioner deems it a red card offence. Punishment? A two week suspension.
Rory Arnold smashes his shoulder into the face of Elton Jantjies. Earns a red card. Punishment? A three week suspension.
Ruan Botha leads with the shoulder when attempting a clear-out. Makes contact with a Jaguares head. Earns a red card. Punishment? A four week suspension.
Chance Peni hits Israel Dagg with a high swinging arm as he attempts to tackle him. Dagg is knocked out and leaves the field. He does not return. Peni earns a red card. Punishment? Suspended for 5 weeks.
Tevita Nabura karate kicks Cam Clark in the face when jumping for a high ball. Earns a red card. Punishment? A six week suspension.
Raymond Rhule makes a clumsy jump to block a kick. Makes contact with the kicker’s face as he comes down from the jump. Earns a red card. Punishment? A three week suspension.
Johannes (JJ) Englebrecht was issued with a yellow card and a warning for separate incidents during a game in Cape Town. Charged with contravening SANZAAR Disciplinary Rule 6.1. Punishment? A one week suspension.
Folau Fainga’a headbutts Matthys Basson, twice. Earns a red card. Punishment? One week suspension.

In all of the above, save for the JJ Engelbrecht disciplinary hearing, we are dealing with direct contact to the head of a player. One other suspension needs to be added to our discussion:

Pierre Schoeman was suspended for six weeks for biting an opponent in his team’s 28-10 win over the Rebels.

World Rugby: Regulation 17:

Amongst the host of regulations promulgated by World Rugby for the governance and functioning of our game we find one Regulation that is of particular importance in the handling, consideration, and possible sanctioning of acts of foul play.

This is REGULATION 17.  DISCIPLINE – FOUL PLAY.

Regulation 17 is rather long and contains much legalese and verbal obfuscation, as is the wont of all documents that attempt to lay down the law. (My copy of this regulation is all of 25 pages long, in a font size 10, which is quite small!)

Without attempting to set out or explain the entire Regulation 17 here, I do believe we need to take a look at certain important sections of the Regulation. For ease of reading and for your reference, I have highlighted those sections that are relevant to this discussion.

Starting with:

Regulation 17.19.2 Assessment of Seriousness of the Foul Play.

This section reads as follows:

Assessment of seriousness of the Foul Play

17.19.2      Disciplinary Committees or Judicial Officers shall undertake an assessment of the seriousness of the Player’s conduct that constitutes the offending and categorise that conduct as being at the lower end, mid range or top end of the scale of seriousness in order to identify the appropriate entry point for consideration of a particular incident(s) of Foul Play where such incident(s) is expressly covered in Appendix 1. The assessment of the seriousness of the Player’s conduct shall be determined by reference to the following features:

(a)     whether the offending was intentional or deliberate;

(b)     whether the offending was reckless, that is the Player knew (or  should have known) there was a risk of committing an act of Foul Play;

(c)     the gravity of the Player’s actions in relation to the offending;

(d)     the nature of the actions, the manner in which the offence was committed including part of body used (for example, fist, elbow, knee or boot);

(e)     the existence of provocation;

(f)      whether the Player acted in retaliation and the timing of such;

(g)     whether the Player acted in self-defence (that is whether he used a reasonable degree of force in defending himself);

(h)     the effect of the Player’s actions on the victim (for example, extent of injury, removal of victim Player from the game);

(i)      the effect of the Player’s actions on the Match;

(j)      the vulnerability of the victim Player including part of victim’s body involved/affected, position of the victim Player, ability to defend himself;

(k)     the level of participation in the offending and level of premeditation;

(l)      whether the conduct of the offending Player was completed or amounted to an attempt; and

(m)    any other feature of the Player’s conduct in relation to or connected with the offending.

Based on the assessment of the offence(s) under consideration against the above features of offending, the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer shall categorise the act of Foul Play as being at the lower end, mid range or top end of the scale of seriousness of offending and identify the applicable entry point as set out in Appendix 1. (My underlining for emphasis.)

17.19.3      For offences categorised at the top end of the scale of seriousness of offending, the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer shall identify an entry point between the period shown as the top end for the particular offence and the maximum sanction in Appendix 1.[3]

Aggravating Factors

17.19.4      Having identified the applicable entry point for consideration of a particular incident, the Disciplinary Committees or Judicial Officers shall identify any relevant off-field aggravating factors and determine what additional period of suspension, if any, above the applicable entry point for the offence should apply to the case in question. Aggravating factors include:

(a)     the Player’s status generally as an offender of the Laws of the Game;[4] 

(b)     the need for a deterrent to combat a pattern of offending in the Game; and

(c)     any other off-field aggravating factor(s) that the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer considers relevant and appropriate.

Mitigating Factors

17.19.5      Thereafter, the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer shall identify any relevant off-field mitigating factors and determine if there are grounds for reducing the period of suspension and subject to Regulations 17.19.6 and 17.19.7 the extent, if at all, by which the period of suspension should be reduced. Mitigating factors include the following:

(a)     the presence and timing of an acknowledgement of culpability/wrong-doing by the offending Player;

(b)     the Player’s disciplinary record and/or good character;

(c)     the youth and inexperience of the Player;

(d)     the Player’s conduct prior to and at the hearing;

(e)     the Player having demonstrated remorse for his conduct to the victim Player including the timing of such remorse; and

(f)      any other off-field mitigating factor(s) that the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer considers relevant and appropriate.

17.19.6      Subject to Regulations 17.19.7 and 17.19.8, for acts of Foul Play the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer cannot apply a greater reduction than 50% of the relevant entry point suspension. In assessing the percentage reduction applicable for mitigating factors, the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer shall start at 0% reduction and apply the amount, if any, to be allowed as mitigation up to the maximum 50% reduction.

17.19.7      In cases involving offending that has been classified pursuant to Regulation 17.19.2 as lower end offending, where:

(a)     there are off-field mitigating factors; and

(b)     where the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer considers that the sanction would be wholly disproportionate to the level and type of offending involved;

the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer may apply sanctions less than 50% of the lower end entry sanctions specified in Appendix 1 including in appropriate cases no sanction. In exceptional cases where the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer considers it is warranted it/he may (i) expunge the Ordering Off (Red Card) from the Player’s disciplinary record, or (ii) in the case of a Temporary Suspension (Yellow Card) issued by the referee, solely in circumstances attributed to mistaken identity, may expunge the Temporary Suspension from the Player’s disciplinary record.

17.19.8      In cases of multiple offending, Disciplinary Committees and Judicial Officers may impose sanctions to run either on a concurrent or a consecutive basis provided that the total sanction is in all the circumstances proportionate to the level of the overall offending.

17.19.9      Disciplinary Committees and Judicial Officers shall ordinarily in their written decisions set out the reasoning for their findings, including the finding on culpability, how they have categorised the seriousness of the offence by reference to the features set out in Regulation 17.19.2, how they identified and applied any aggravating and mitigating factors and conclude with the resultant sanction, if any, imposed.

Now that is an awful lot of reading for anyone that wants to understand the way rugby’s Judicial Hearings work.

And you’re reading is not over yet.

There is another part to Regulation 17 that you need to understand.

This is Appendix One of Regulation 17..

This section of the World Rugby Regulations is titled: WORLD RUGBY SANCTIONS FOR FOUL PLAY, and details the sanctions to be applied in a wide variety of foul play situations.

For the purposes of this discussion, I will not quote every part of Appendix One. I will simply replicate those that are of relevance.

9.11      Players must not do anything that is reckless or dangerous to others

Low-end: 2 weeks Mid-range: 4 weeks Top-end: 8+ weeks Max: 52 weeks

 

9.12      A player must not physically abuse anyone.  Physical abuse includes, but is not limited to:

Biting Low-end:

12 weeks

Mid-range:

18 weeks

Top-end:

24+ weeks

Max:

208 weeks

Punching Low-end:

2 weeks

Mid-range:

4 weeks

Top-end:

8+ weeks

Max:

52 weeks

A punch to the head shall result in at least a mid-range entry point sanction
Contact with Eye(s) [5] Low-end:

12 weeks

Mid-range:

18 weeks

Top-end:

24+ weeks

Max:

208 weeks

Contact with Eye Area [6] Low-end: 4 weeks Mid-range:

8 weeks

Top-end:

12+ weeks

Max:

52 weeks

Striking with hand or arm (including stiff-arm tackle) Low-end:

2 weeks

Mid-range:

4 weeks

Top-end:

8+ weeks

Max:

52 weeks

A strike to the head shall result in at least a mid-range entry point sanction
Striking with the elbow Low-end:

2 weeks

Mid-range: 

6 weeks

Top-end:

10+ weeks

Max:

52 weeks

A strike to the head shall result in at least a mid-range entry point sanction
Striking with shoulder Low-end:

2 weeks

Mid-range:

6 weeks

Top-end:

10+ weeks

Max:

52 weeks

A strike to the head shall result in at least a mid-range entry point sanction
Striking with head Low-end:

4 weeks

Mid-range:

10 weeks

Top-end:

16+ weeks

Max:

104 weeks

Striking with knee Low-end:

4 weeks

Mid-range:

8 weeks

Top-end:

12+ weeks

Max:

52 weeks

A strike to the head shall result in at least a mid-range entry point sanction
Stamping or Trampling Low-end:

2 weeks

Mid-range:

6 weeks

Top-end:

12+ weeks

Max:

52 weeks

Stamping/trampling on the head shall result in a top-end entry point sanction
Tripping

 

Low-end:

2 weeks

Mid-range:

4 weeks

Top-end:

8+ weeks

Max:

52 weeks

Kicking Low-end:

4 weeks

Mid-range:

8 weeks

Top-end:

12+ weeks

Max:

52 weeks

Kicking the head shall result in a top-end entry point sanction

 

9.13      A player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously. Dangerous tackling includes, but is not limited to, tackling or attempting to tackle an opponent above the line of the shoulders even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders.

Low-end:

2 weeks

Mid-range:

6 weeks

Top-end:

10+ weeks

Max:

52 weeks

A dangerous tackle which results in a strike to the head shall result in at least a mid-range entry point sanction

 

9.16      A player must not charge or knock down an opponent carrying the ball without attempting to grasp that player.

Low-end: 2 weeks Mid-range: 6 weeks Top-end: 10+ weeks Max: 52 weeks

 

9.17      A player must not tackle, charge, pull, push or grasp an opponent whose feet are off the ground.

Low-end: 4 weeks Mid-range: 8 weeks Top-end: 12+ weeks Max: 52 weeks

 

9.18      A player must not lift an opponent off the ground and drop or drive that player so that their head and/or upper body make contact with the ground.

Low-end: 6 weeks Mid-range: 10 weeks Top-end: 14+ weeks Max: 52 weeks

 

 

9.20        Dangerous play in a ruck or maul. 

  1. A player must not charge into a ruck or maul. Charging includes any contact made without binding onto another player in the ruck or maul. 
    ii. A player must not make contact with an opponent above the line of the shoulders.
    iii. A player must not intentionally collapse a ruck or a maul.
Low-end: 2 weeks Mid-range: 4 weeks Top-end: 8+ weeks Max: 52 weeks

 

Relating Back To Recent Incidents:

Joe Moody smashes a forearm into Kurtley Beale’s neck and face. No card is issued as match officials ignore the incident. Citing Commissioner deems it a red card offence. Punishment? A two week suspension.

Why only 2 weeks? In terms of Appendix One, 9.12 we are talking about striking with the arm or elbow, to the head. So a Mid-range 4 or 6 weeks depending on whether you think it was the arm or the elbow.

We also know that Moody is a serial offender. This is not the first time he has appeared before a Judicial Hearing. He has a suspension and an official warning or two in his file, and has collected a couple of yellow cards along the way too.

So the Judicial Officer says:

“With respect to sanction, the foul play review committee deemed the act of foul play merited a mid-range entry point of four weeks due to the dangerous contact with the opposing player’s head.

“However, taking into account mitigating factors including the player’s excellent judicial record, good character and guilty plea at the earliest possible opportunity, the foul play review committee reduced the suspension to two weeks.

“The player is therefore suspended for two weeks, up to and including Friday 25 May 2018.”

Reading the above tells you that the Judicial Officer was either a) unaware of Moody’s previous record, or b) chose to ignore his record for some obscure reason.

Owen Franks delivers a swinging forearm to the head of James Parsons in a ruck. Parsons leave the field with concussion. Match official says it is “too late” to issue a card or sanction”. Citing Commissioner deems it a red card offence. Punishment? A two week suspension.

Why only two weeks? Once again, in terms of Appendix One, 9.12 we are talking about striking with the arm or elbow, to the head. So a Mid-range 4 or 6 weeks depending on whether you think it was the arm or the elbow.

Now add the provision of Reg 17. 19. 2. h) which says:

(h)     the effect of the Player’s actions on the victim (for example, extent of injury, removal of victim Player from the game);

In this instance James Parsons had to leave the field for an Head Injury Assessment, and was not able to return as he was diagnosed to be mildly concussed by the impact of Franks’ blow.

An Aggravating Circumstance, surely?

Add the fact that Franks has something of a record for indiscretions on the field, and we would expect something more than the 2-2week slap on the wrist?

Not so. The Judicial Officers says:

“With respect to sanction the Foul Play Review Committee deemed the act of foul play merited a mid-range entry point of four weeks. However, taking into account mitigating factors including the players good record over an extensive playing history which includes only one previous judicial sanction, his expressed remorse and apology to the other player, and the player’s guilty plea at the first available opportunity, the Foul Play Review Committee reduced the suspension to two weeks.”

If we read the above, we know that the Judicial Officer knew about Franks; previous record, and chose to ignore it.

Next up: Rory Arnold smashes his shoulder into the face of Elton Jantjies. Earns a red card. Punishment? A three week suspension.

You can choose the foul play that Arnold was guilty of committing. If it was striking with the shoulder, to the head, it requires a mid-range entry point and a six week suspension. If it was a breach of 9.13 and a dangerous tackle, to the head, the regulations call for at least a mid-range 6 weeks.

Once again the Judicial Officer was very generous:

“With respect to sanction the Foul Play Review Committee deemed the act of foul play, a dangerous high tackle, merited a mid-range entry point of six weeks. However, taking into account mitigating factors including the player’s excellent, clear, disciplinary record, his expressed remorse and his guilty plea at the first available opportunity, the Foul Play Review Committee reduced the suspension to three weeks.”

Which brings us to the case of Ruan Botha, who leads with the shoulder when attempting a clear-out. Makes contact with a Jaguares head. Earns a red card. Punishment? A four week suspension.

“With respect to sanction the Foul Play Review Committee deemed the act of foul play merited a mid-range entry point of 4 weeks due to the contact with the opposing Player’s head.”

The Foul Play Review Committee added 1 week to the initial sanction as aggravation for the fact the Player was suspended for a similar incident less then 12 months prior. However, taking into account the mitigating factor of the Player’s guilty plea at the first available opportunity, the Foul Play Review Committee reduced the suspension to 4 weeks.”

Four weeks sounds about right, given the propensity for generosity displayed by our Judicial Officers. Add the fact that Botha is a “serial” offender, and we can accept four weeks as an appropriate sanction.

Yet there has to be a question raised. How exactly does the indiscretion of Botha differ with that of Rory Arnold?

If you view both incidents on the television replays, Arnold’s contact with Jantjies is very obviously more forceful and potentially dangerous, with the intent knock Jantjies down inherent in the action, while Botha’s actions, whilst equally wrong, did not carry the same impact and force.

How then does Botha get 4 weeks and Arnold just 3?

There is something wrong here, especially as serial offender Joe Moody’s previous indiscretions are completely ignored when he is given just two weeks for a forearm/elbow strike to the throat of Kurtley Beale.

Moving on to Chance Peni. Peni hits Israel Dagg with a high swinging arm as he attempts to tackle him. Dagg is knocked out and leaves the field. He does not return. Peni earns a red card. Punishment? Suspended for 5 weeks.

Have no doubt that Chance Peni is a serial offender. This is the third time he had to appear before the Sanzaar Judiciary for a similar offence.

The judiciary committee said Peni was initially facing a seven-week ban because of two previous suspensions for dangerous tackles. Quite how the Judicial Officer decided on a possible 7-week ban is baffling at best. Reg 17. 9. 13 says that this is at best a mid-range incident, asking for 6 weeks. If we consider that Dagg had to leave the field and could not return, I would suggest that it closer to a Top-End incident, asking for 10+ weeks.

Somehow, despite Peni’s previous record, the Judicial Officer deemed seven weeks sufficient, and then reduced it:

“However, taking into account mitigating factors including the player’s remorse shown on field and his pleading guilty at the first available opportunity, the Foul Play Review Committee reduced the suspension to five weeks,”

Once again, there seems to be something wrong here!

Tevita Nabura karate kicks Cam Clark in the face when jumping for a high ball. Earns a red card. Punishment? A six week suspension.

The incident occurred in the 17th minute of the match when he kicked Clark in the face. He was sent off and his team had to play 63 minutes of rugby with 14 men on the field.

The Sanzaar Foul Play Review Committee found him guilty of contravening Law 9.12: Kicking, and suspended him from all forms of the game for six weeks.

“The player’s action was seen by the Committee as a misguided effort by an inexperienced player to both try and regain balance whilst in the air and ward off the approaching opposing player.

“As it is required to do, the Committee assessed that, given the comparative lack of force of the actual contact to the head and the lack of any injury to the other player, the entry point should remain at 12 weeks.

“However, taking into account mitigating factors including the Player’s excellent record, his remorse, his inexperience and his guilty plea at the first available opportunity, the Foul Play Review Committee reduced the suspension by 50% to a sanction of six weeks.

Next up: Raymond Rhule makes a clumsy jump to block a kick. Makes contact with the kicker’s face as he comes down from the jump. Earns a red card. Punishment? A three week suspension.

In his finding on Rhule’s case, The Judicial Officer ruled the following:

“Having conducted a detailed review of all the available evidence, including all camera angles and additional evidence, including from the player and submissions from his legal representative, Adrian Montzinger, the Foul Play Review Committee upheld the red card under Law 9.25
With respect to sanction the Foul Play Review Committee deemed the act of foul play merited a mid-range entry point of six weeks, especially given that that act resulted in a blow to the opposing player’s head. However, taking into account mitigating factors including the Player’s excellent Judicial record, his good character and his early guilty plea at the first available opportunity, the Foul Play Review Committee reduced the suspension to three weeks.

This ruling is probably the fairest of all those we are discussing. It was clumsy, it was contact to the head. It was not deliberate or premeditated, but it was reckless. Three weeks sound right!

Folau Fainga’a has been suspended for one week after pleading guilty to his headbutt of Bulls replacement Matthys Basson in the Brumbies’ 38-28 win over the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.

Fainga’a was sent off in the 62nd minute of the match for the indiscretion.

The Judicial Officer ruled the following: “Having conducted a detailed review of all the available evidence, including all camera angles and additional evidence, including from the Player and submissions on his behalf, the Foul Play Review Committee upheld the Red Card under Law 9.12”

With respect to sanction the Foul Play Review Committee deemed the act of foul play merited a low end entry point of 4 weeks, given some degree of provocation before the incident and the relative lack of force in the contact between the 2 players.

“Taking into account mitigating factors including the Player’s excellent Judicial record, his youth and inexperience and his pleading guilty at the first available opportunity, the Foul Play Review Committee reduced the suspension to two weeks.

In addition, given the Player’s good character and the fact that, in the Committee’s view, 2 weeks was a wholly disproportionate sanction for an offence that only related to comparatively minor contact, the sanction was further reduced by an extra week.”

Pierre Schoeman was suspended for six weeks for biting an opponent in his team’s 28-10 win over the Rebels.

A Sanzaar Judicial Committee Hearing found Schoeman guilty of contravening Law 9.12 – A Player must not physically abuse anyone. Physical abuse includes, but is not limited to Biting, after he was cited during the Super Rugby match

In their finding, the Judicial Committee ruled the following:

“Having conducted a detailed review of all the available evidence, including all camera angles and additional evidence, including from the player and submissions from his legal representative, Attie Heyns, the Judicial Committee accepted the player’s guilty plea and upheld the citing under Law 9.12 – A Player must not physically abuse anyone. Physical abuse includes, but is not limited to Biting. 

 “With respect to sanction the Judicial Committee deemed the act of foul play merited a low-end entry point of 12 weeks. However, taking into account mitigating factors including the player’s early guilty plea, his good character, his good disciplinary record and his remorse the Judicial Committee reduced the suspension to a period of six weeks.”

In this instance, Schoeman should consider himself a very lucky young man. If this had happened in the Northern hemisphere he would have been sitting out a lot more than just six weeks.

Finally, Johannes (JJ) Englebrecht was issued with a yellow card and a warning for separate incidents during a game in Cape Town. Charged with contravening SANZAAR Disciplinary Rule 6.1. Punishment? A one week suspension.

The Judicial Officer said: “the Foul Play Review Committee found the player should be the subject of further sanction for his persistent foul play offending in one match.
“With respect to sanction the Foul Play Review Committee deemed the nature of the persistent offending, together with the closeness together of the two incidents, merited an entry point of two weeks suspension. However, taking into account mitigating factors including the Players excellent Judicial record and his admission of responsibility at the first available opportunity, the Foul Play Review Committee reduced the suspension to one week.”

“Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.”

Back in 1924 an English legal case (R v Sussex Justices, Ex parte McCarthy) was heard that established the principle that the mere appearance of bias is sufficient to overturn a judicial decision.

It should surely apply to Sanzaar’s judicial decisions too?

Whilst the disparity of sentences handed to New Zealanders in comparison to those handed to players from other countries might not reflect actual bias, there is undoubtedly more than a hint of such bias. And if there is an appearance of bias, it calls into question the entire Sanzaar Judicial process.

Add in the requirement that “Justice must be seen to be done”, and look at the disparity between sentences for very similar offences, and we can also question Sanzaar’s commitment and application of the Laws and Regulations legislated by World Rugby.

The persistent application of spurious “mitigating factors” adds to the controversy.

Just to add further fuel to the fire, the latest series of Judicial Reviews and sentences are exposed to ridicule for another reason. Ruan Botha’s four weeks, Raymond Rhule’s three weeks, and JJ Engelbrecht’s one week are all of zero consequence to the player or their teams.

Why?

All three will serve their sentences during the June International Rugby window, a time when their teams are playing no rugby whatsoever. Effectively, none of the three has received any punishment whatsoever. Certainly none that “can be seen to be done” – They might have a note entered on their playing record, but that is equally of no consequence, as Sanzaar’s Judicial Officers have shown that they ignore the previous records when handing down sentences!

Not only is Justice not being done; it is also being seen not to be done.

Conclusion

The more closely we look at the functioning of Sanzaar’s disciplinary processes and then add in the issue of the Sanzaar referees that are wildly inconsistent in their application of the Laws and their management of the game, the more we must conclude that Sanzaar and its administrators are doing serious damage to the reputation and image of the game of rugby.

Sanzaar is broken. It is time for it to be fixed!