What kills me – the most I should say – are the stupid, confusing freakin’ rules man. And I have actually stopped trying to figure out how each and every bloke with a whistle in his mouth tries to “interpret” the rules and have come to the conclusion that every collapsed scrum, ruck battle or driving maul can go either way regardless of how clear the evidence is of one side clearly being in the wrong.
My newest gripe is the issue around discipline. Two contrasting incidents over the last few months have proved that rugby is in a bit of a mess. Firstly, Lions flanker Kwagga Smith gets sent off in the Super Rugby final for his dangerous tackle on Crusaders fullback David Havili.
The rule states clearly that a player is not allowed to make an aerial challenge, which justified Kwagga’s red card. Although replays clearly show that Kwagga tried to pull out, he was too far advanced and still caused Havili to fall badly. So without intentionally trying to hurt the Kiwi, Kwagga was sent for an early shower which put a massive dampener on what should have been a huge spectacle and advertisement for global rugby.
Now do yourself the favour to try and put this whole unfortunate affair into context with what happened in Bloemfontein at the weekend. Wallaby Israel Folau yanks Bok wing Dillyn Leyds by his hair to drag him to the ground. Yes, the Aussie did start with one hand holding onto Leyds’ collar as coach Michael Cheika said afterwards, but after he lost his grip on the collar he kept on holding the hair with his other hand all the way to the ground.
Now I don’t know whether this is the way the Aussies track down their sheilas out in the outback, but there is no place for that on a rugby field. Folau knew what he was doing and he showed no intention of pulling out at any stage. Okay, what didn’t help was Eben Etzebeth running in like a headless chicken to ram Folau.
And I do realise that retaliation is as serious an offence as foul play itself, but surely Etzebeth’s brainless act can’t paper over Folau’s thuggery? Give Etzebeth a card too then for all I care, but punish the bugger who was clearly caught out by all 12 television cameras for doing something highly illegal and very dangerous.
But guess what? No sanction for Folau, no sanction for Etzebeth and no further action in the aftermath of the match. Kwagga got four weeks for his challenge, a great spectacle was ruined and probably killed one of rugby’s greatest fairy tales ever.
For something he clearly didn’t want to do. In Bloemfontein two guys got away with immediate sanction and escaped possible further punishment. For bodily harm they both very much meant. Huh?