In round 7 of Vodacom Super Rugby the Cell C Sharks hosted the Vodacom Bulls in Durban for their return fixture of this year’s tournament, when what has become one the most talked about fights in Super Rugby history broke out between two of South Africa’s current best hookers, Akker van der Merwe and Schalk Brits.
The reason for the “most talked about” tag, was not because of the fight but the whole citing process that took place and the subsequent bans that followed.
We decided to speak to former Springbok wing and current Foul Play Review Committee member, Stefan Terblanche to clarify the citing confusion that was caused by the media, who seemed to have had the wrong information according to Brits.
Brits’ sins of the past come back to haunt him following fisticuffs with Akker https://t.co/woUWUYsOs8 via @IOL @ockertde. Factually incorrect. Never had a option of a two week ban. 😉
Let the past be the past ☺️
— Schalk Brits (@SchalkBrits) April 5, 2019
1. What does the citing process on match day entail, what is the timeframe within which a citing must be made, and which parties are involved in the process? Is it only the Citing Commissioner who is involved or can teams also submit a citing?
I am not part of the citing process, so I can’t provide you with 100% correct details about procedure; although usually a citing is made directly after a game and the process is completed within 24-hours.
Yes, teams have a four-hour window after a game within which to request that an incident is reviewed.
2. Following the actual citing, what happens next and how exactly is the decision made as to who the members are that conduct the hearing?
Members of all panels are selected at the beginning of the season. So, we already have all the panels and Citing Commissioners in place right from the start.
We are notified by the Citing Commission as soon as a citing occurs. All the info is then downloaded for us to view.
Video footage, player submissions, the Referee’s report, Assistant Referee’s report – if necessary – the medical report of any injured player involved, and the cited player or players’ match schedule/schedules are all included as evidence.
We then view all of this collateral before meeting in the SANZAAR meeting room at 9AM on a Sunday or 9AM on a Monday, to allow for teams to travel or participate in later games on Saturday or Sunday nights.
3. Much has been said and discussed over the last week regarding the hearings and consequences of Akker van der Merwe and Schalk Brits’ punch up, with many feeling that Schalk got a raw deal in the end, especially after his second hearing found that he acted in self-defence etc. Where would you say things went wrong for Schalk and right for Akker?
Both are red card offences. Akker, as a first-time offender, qualifies for a full 50% discount for an early plea and the fact that he has not had any red cards before.
This is Schalk’s third red card. He has had two for punching before and served a three-week ban for each card.
There was no citing for the “headbutt”. So, as the Foul Play Review Committee, there is nothing we can do about it, even though the rugby-viewing public had concerns and questions about it.
The Citing Commissioner never cited for the aforementioned headbutt, but if the Bulls felt strongly enough about it, they could easily have asked for it to be reviewed. They did not.
4. Do you think it is fair to hold a player accountable for something that happened six, or even three years ago, as is what happened in Schalk’s case, or do you see World Rugby looking into potentially scrapping old track records after a certain period of time – like they do when players dope for instance? Surely doping should be seen as far more harmful to the sport as a few hand bags, or a punch-up, as we saw? Rugby is a contact sport after all…
Doping is not part of our mandate, so unfortunately, we can`t comment on that. It’s an issue that is handled separately and I would rather not give you my personal views on doping.
Yes, I do agree that between three and six years without incident is not a bad track record in a career spanning almost 20 years, but unfortunately it is all taken into account at the moment.
5. What do you think World Rugby and Rugby Unions around the world could do better to communicate the things that aggravate supporters – the people who spend millions around the world – on the game they so dearly love? Surely there is a way of being more transparent with the fans? Take, for example, the outcry there was when the new World Rugby League was announced or look at the weekly outcry about citings and non-citings as we saw with Leyds – to mention only one. Surely, it all comes down to bad communication? And I am sure you have some valid measures you could suggest that could be considered globally?
I agree and communication should be improved in all areas.
Rugby supporters must also take responsibility, though, and improve their knowledge about the rules and regulations. But again, I agree that there is no easy or fun way of doing this. And World Rugby and SANZAAR should definitely address this.
People don’t read full press releases anymore, and most releases do explain any given situation quite well.
Rugby franchises and managers should stay on top of these too. And a number of protocols and procedures were not adhered to in this particular case, I believe purely because parties did not know.
For more questions regarding the whole review process we would like to encourage supporters to engage with Stefan on his Twitter account as we did and we want to thank him for being willing to take this debate upon himself to educate all of us and give insights we clearly weren’t aware of until now.