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25 Aug 2009 08:41
World rugby’s governing body on Monday found the South African Rugby Union (Saru), the Springboks and team officials guilty of bringing the game into disrepute with their ‘armband’ protest against a two-week ban given to Bakkies Botha.
The charges upheld on Monday by the International Rugby Board (IRB)‘s independent disciplinary committee were laid after the Springboks wore white armbands bearing the word ‘justice’ during their third Test defeat by the British and Irish Lions last month.
The armbands were worn as a symbol of solidarity with lock Botha, who the South Africans felt had been unfairly banned for dangerously charging into a ruck during the second Test of the series.
The independent committee imposed fines of £10 0000 on Saru, £1 000 on Springbok skipper John Smit and £200 on each of the other players.
The committee said the sanctions would have been much more severe but for legal technicalities and the IRB could yet seek tougher measures by appealing against the ruling of its disciplinary committee.
Saru acknowledged the guilty verdict but held off a response until it had reviewed the findings.
“We note the outcome of the International Rugby Board’s disciplinary committee hearing into the charges brought against the South African Rugby Union, Springbok players and management,” said Saru president Oregan Hoskins.
“We are reviewing the full findings of the committee and will respond once that review is concluded.”
The IRB committee was made up of two judges, Sir John Hansen of New Zealand and Guillermo Tragant of Argentina, and former Australian captain John Eales.
In its ruling, the committee said that the action of the Springboks “brought the game into disrepute, criticised the judicial process and was misconduct.”
The committee also noted the absence of any apology from Saru, the team’s management or the players themselves and emphasised that “the playing arena is no place for protest” and that the wearing of the armbands “showed a serious lack of respect and consideration for their opponents.”
Saru was found to have failed to make any attempt to prevent the protest, approved of it and effectively consented to conduct which was prejudicial to the best interests of the IRB and of the game.
In a statement the IRB added that: “The independent committee was unanimous in its view that, had it not been for the legal technicalities ... both Saru and the Springbok players and management would have faced much more serious sanctions, including a more severe fine in the case of Saru and the suspension of the Springbok players and management from the Rugby World Cup 2011 [such sanction to have been suspended in the absence of further acts of misconduct before then].”
The IRB said it was “extremely disappointed” at the level of sanctions imposed and would consider an appeal in the hope of securing tougher punishment to act as a deterrent against any repeat of the Springboks’ action by players around the world.—AFP
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