Big Bok win, but red cards the focus

AT the end of a week which was dominated by the controversy over Owen Farrell’s red card that became a yellow and is now subject to a retrial, the penultimate weekend of Rugby World Cup warm-up matches fitted what is fast becoming the accepted narrative.

There were big wins for SA and Italy, with Ireland and France also underlining their World Cup credentials, but there is no doubt what is causing World Rugby a few headaches as we head towards the showpiece’s start on 8 September.

That the World Cup will be a competition dominated by talk of cards, the disciplinary process and the impact that a too often inconsistent raft of sanctions will have on the outcome, was predicted by then England but now Wallaby coach Eddie Jones a long time ago.

And after an outcome to the Farrell disciplinary hearing last week that clearly irked World Rugby, who were almost obligated to appeal the decision to clear Farrell because of the implication it could have on the pending concussion lawsuits faced by the global governing body, it does feel like the sport is heading into a labyrinth.

For instance, when Damian Willemse was yellow carded towards the end of the Springboks’ romp over Wales at the Principality Stadium, there were suggestions that in time it might be upgraded to red. Yet how would such an outcome pass the consistency test if you consider there appeared to be far more aggressive intent in the Farrell tackle on Taine Balsham than there was in the Willemse incident? The Bok utility back just got into an awkward position. That was all.


He was unlucky, just like Ox Nche was unlucky during the Heineken Champions Cup season when he ended up being suspended for what was no more than a clash of heads. Jones, so often maligned, does often talk much sense among those utterances that attract the media platforms that survive on sound bites.

Few would agree with him that the Farrell decision was right, but it is hard to disagree that more common sense, and perhaps a greater feel for the game and what rugby is (it is a contact sport), needs to be applied when foul play incidents are being adjudicated on. In which case Pieter-Steph du Toit should have had the red card issued to him in Marseille last year overturned by the DC – he was pushed into the position that saw him sent off early in that game against France.

Farrell got off in the initial DC hearing because of something like that, though it was far less obvious than the Du Toit incident. Referees, TMOs and the people in the bunker system currently being trialled are all working according to the law. But the law is clearly an ass if it allows players to be red carded and then suspended, thus forcing them to miss important games, for misdemeanours that are often just the results of clumsiness and sometimes not even that, they are pure accident. –  SuperSport.

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