The SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Mike Heron has accepted a guilty plea from Francois Hougaard of the Bulls for contravening Law10.4 (j) Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player’s feet are still off the ground, after he was Red Carded during a Super Rugby Match at the Weekend.
Francois Hougaard has been suspended from all forms of the game for one week up to and including the 11th March 2012.
The incident occurred in the 62nd minute of the match between the Cheetahs and the Bulls played at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday 3rd March 2012.
SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Mike Heron assessed the case.
In his finding, Mr Heron ruled the following:
“Francois Hougaard was given a red card in the 62nd minute of the game between his team (the Bulls) and the Cheetahs on 3 March 2012. The matter came before me as Duty JO. Mr Hougaard immediately accepted the tackle was in breach of rule 10.4(j) as per the sending off of the referee. After consideration of all the relevant material, including the footage, Mr Hougaard’s good record and the rather unusual nature of the incident, I indicated a penalty of one-week suspension. Mr Hougaard, through his lawyer, accepted that and accordingly he is suspended from all forms of the game to and including Sunday 11 March 2012 (a one week, one match suspension).
In summary my reasons are:
The footage showed Hougaard lifting the opposing player into the air and dropping him on to the ground. The Cheetahs number 13 fell backwards and twisted on to his right shoulder. He was not injured and continued unaffected. A subsequent report from the Cheetahs confirmed that (as did Mr Swart for the player). Hougaard immediately acknowledged his wrong. An unusual feature was the involvement of another Cheetahs player, initially supporting the tackled player and then not continuing to do so. It was submitted, and I accept, that this appears to have inadvertently contributed to Hougaard failing to realise that the player would drop to the ground. In my view this was a brief incident of dangerous play, which resulted in a breach of rule 10.4(j), without any intent to drop the player on to the ground. Accordingly, I find the entry point low end (three weeks). The player immediately accepted responsibility and pleaded guilty. He has no disciplinary record, is of good character and this is his first card of any type I am told. The circumstances of the tackle were unusual and there was no injury or lasting impact on the tackled player. In addition, Hougaard has the embarrassment of being sent from the field and the record that comes with that. In all the circumstances therefore I reduced the penalty to one weeks suspension. I emphasise that this was an unusual case and that it should not be regarded as setting any precedent in respect of future tackles of this sort.”