CAPE TOWN - When Nizaam Carr went in to tackle David Meihuizen at the weekend, referee Stuart Berry was right on the spot and allowed play to continue.
As the Bulls loose forward prepared himself to take down the Stormers lock, Meihuizen put his head down and ran straight into Carr’s shoulder, as he put his arms around the big man.
Carr’s knees were already bent, and he seemed to be going in to rip the ball from his opponent. With another reverse-angle slow-motion replay, the shot shows Meihuizen looking at Carr, and then moving his own head away from the tackler and into his shoulder.
Eagle-eyed Stormers captain Steven Kitshoff used the captain’s challenge – part of new law variations being trialled in the Rainbow Cup SA – and told Berry about the incident.
“He’s falling. Then, how must I tackle,” an incredulous Carr said. And he does have a point.
Berry decided it was worth a yellow card, and it meant the Bulls were down to 14 men for the final nine minutes of the match, which they survived to win.
Placing the spotlight on dangerous tackles is always welcome, in order to make rugby safer. But the problem comes in when such an emphasis doesn’t make sense, and spoils the game as a spectacle.
Referees have been told to penalise tackles that are above the shoulder, and of course, those old “coat-hanger-type” tackles around the neck must be dealt with harshly.
But the Carr tackle was not dangerous. In fact, you could go as far as to say Meihuizen and Kitshoff exploited the focus on tackle heights. The young lock literally ran headfirst into Carr’s shoulder.
There was a similar incident in the third minute of the first half when Kitshoff barged into Duane Vermeulen. The Stormers No 1 had also lined up his defender, and then dipped his head towards Vermeulen’s left shoulder. His head actually made contact with the arm, with his shoulder thudding into his Springbok teammate’s shoulder.
That probably saved the Bulls captain from getting a yellow card, but he looked totally confused as Berry awarded the Stormers a penalty.
Is this what rugby has been reduced to – using slow-motion replays to dish out penalties and yellow cards for innocuous tackles?
The captain’s challenge should really be used for foul play, or if there was a possible infringement when a try is scored, as it also wastes time.
I have got no problem with how Kitshoff used it to his team’s advantage, as he was within his rights.
But I understand Jake White’s frustration afterwards when he spoke about rugby being a contact sport “and people do run at each other”.
“There needs to be some sort of feel from the officials as to whether or not there is intent and all that,” the Bulls coach said.
And don’t get me started on the try-line dropout when the attacking side have been held up over the line.
Also, the red-card replacement after 20 minutes variation is questionable. It should depend on the severity of the incident.
At the moment, a player can punch an opponent, be sent off, and a replacement can come on after 20 minutes. That is just not right.