There have been a lot of frowning moments during this extraordinary South Africa-Lions streak.
But the announcement of the list of citations from the Second Test was one of the most surprising.
There had been a lot of anticipation over who would appear on it, with so many incidents of foul play having been highlighted or alleged both during and after the Springboks’ 27-9 win at Cape Town Stadium.
Yet when it came out, none of those made the list.
Instead, the only player named was Lions replacement mainstay Kyle Sinckler for an incident that hadn’t been mentioned anywhere.
It was all very strange.
What we do know is that Sinckler will now face a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday, after being cited by Australian Scott Nowland – the commissioner citing the match – for allegedly biting Franco Mostert.
But as to why no one else has been called to account, we are just not wiser.
There was certainly no dearth of potential quotes for Nowland to consider.
You’ve had the two incidents involving Cheslin Kolbe – his one-on-one contact with Tom Curry as he tackled the English flanker and his removal of the Conor Murray in flight.
Then there was Mako Vunipola’s first shot on Eben Eztebeth, where there seemed to be head-to-head contact, and Faf de Klerk’s tackle on the hapless Murray, which seemed to involve him jumping with a swing arm. .
Some have also argued that Duhan van der Merwe’s kick / trip on Kolbe deserves more than the yellow card it got.
Additionally, you had allegations of a knee bite from Stuart Hogg and Maro Itoje to Damian de Allende’s throat – incidents which both went viral after the game.
Yet none of them resulted in citations.
So what are we going to do with all of this? Well the truth is we are just left in the dark because there are no official explanations to come.
We now know what the role of the citation commissioner is.
It’s his job to look for incidents that definitely hit the red card threshold.
Even if a player received a yellow card during the match – as in the case where Kolbe eliminated Murray and Van der Merwe’s trip – the commissioner can still issue a citation if he considers it to be a red card violation.
Obviously, he ruled that only Sinckler’s alleged actions fall into this category.
But the confusion arises because a number of incidents in Saturday’s game are exactly the kinds of offenses we’ve grown accustomed to seeing people receiving a red card for in recent years, certainly in the northern hemisphere.
Vunipola’s shoulder to Eztebeth’s head would more often than not lead to an expulsion in either PRO14 or the English Premiership.
Likewise, you would expect a player to see red for a dangerous collision with an airborne opponent like Kolbe did with Murray.
Now some people have pointed out that Kolbe has his eyes on the ball the entire time and there is no intention on his part.
But, as I have written endlessly, the intention – or rather the lack of it – doesn’t matter.
When a player first stands up and claims the ball, it is the responsibility of the other player involved in the bout not to come into contact with him.
Kolbe is wrong in this regard and it is clearly a criminal act. The only question is the suit of the card, the penalty being determined by the results in such cases. In other words, it boils down to landing.
Now, explaining his decision to issue a yellow card, Kiwi referee Ben O’Keeffe said Murray landed on his back.
Now, he’s clearly wrong there.
The Irish scrum-half landed on his forehead, planting his face in the process, and it could have been a lot worse if he hadn’t put out an arm and a leg to cushion his fall.
Whether a victim’s protective actions should prevent the offending player from receiving a red card is highly debatable and Kolbe was expected to be cited during the review.
But that was not to be the case. The Springboks winger also avoided sanction for his face-to-face clash with Curry, again the kind of incident we’ve seen cards often seen, while the same was true of De Klerk’s shot. on Murray, which has sparked much debate over its legality and point of contact.
As for the allegation that Hogg bit Willie le Roux, the Scotland full-back has vehemently denied the charge and it’s hard to see how you could quote him from the inconclusive video evidence.
However, Itjoe’s incident did not look good and it is somewhat surprising that there was no citation for England’s lock down there.
But the bigger problem here is that we just don’t know why there weren’t any other quotes besides the Sinckler case.
There was simply radio silence. Now we just have to try to find a solution on our own, which is not great in terms of clarity and understanding.
It would be really instructive to know why a commissioner decides not to issue citations for offenses that appear to meet the red card threshold, based on the disciplinary framework and what we have become accustomed to in recent years.
Now I realize that this could open Pandora’s Box and there is some debate about where you stop in terms of the number of incidents that might need to be explained.
But when they’re so publicized and discussed so extensively in such a big game, it would be nice to get a glimpse of the citation process.
Tim O’Connor, a writer on rugby and law, is among those who have expressed concern over the situation.
âOn the video evidence seen, Kolbe (on Murray) and Vunipola had to be cited for meeting the red card criteria,â he tweeted.
âFaf de Klerk and Itoje would be, at the very least, 50/50 as to the quote of a red, and failing that an indisputable CCW if available.
âVunipola and Kolbe were consecutive red cards. No ifs and buts. From what you’ve read in the World Rugby Laws section, these are red cards.
âIf rugby is serious about enforcing the laws made for player safety, then they need to be cited. They were not. This is a huge, huge system failure.
“If a game that is the subject of a dispute for non-application of laws designed for player safety fails to apply in flagrant cases of breaches of laws designed for player safety, then it makes a claim. rod for its own back and will have clearly earned the stripes it will wear out as a result.
These are strong words, but then it is a very serious matter.
As for the only quote that has been published, against Sinckler, it is difficult to pass judgment on the images available.
There was an immediate complaint from Mostert on the pitch, with referee O’Keeffe saying there was nothing he could do about it at the time, but that would be settled after the game.
This is what has happened now. The Citation Commissioner has access to camera angles that have not been released to the general public, while cases like this often focus on testimonials and any evidence of markings.
The end result is that Sinckler has now been cited and we’ll learn more at Tuesday’s hearing.
Sadly, we’re unlikely to know much more about quotes that never have been.
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