Brumbies and Australia winger Henry Speight has been suspended for five weeks at a SANZAR Judicial Hearing for a dangerous tackle.
Speight was found guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackle, after he received a red card during a Super Rugby match at the weekend. Speight has been suspended for five weeks up to and including Saturday 25 July 2015, which translates into four matches.
The incident occurred in the 74th minute of the match between the Stormers and Brumbies at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.
The SANZAR Judicial Hearing was heard by Robert Stelzner SC via video conference at 4:00pm AEST, 6:00pm NZST, 8:00am SAST on 23 June 2015. Mike Mika was the former professional player who attended as a Judicial Technical Adviser. The outcome was delayed as Stelzner requested information of the player's forthcoming playing schedule in order to determine the sanction.
In his finding, Stelzner ruled the following:
"As the Judicial Officer, I considered all the evidence before me including the video footage of the incident, referee and TMO reports for issuing the red card and the submissions made for the player by his legal representative, Peter McGrath.
"After taking all relevant facts into consideration, I found that the referee's decision to issue a red card was correct. I found the incident to have a lower end entry point for breaching of 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackle which stipulates a four-week suspension.
"It was submitted on Speight’s behalf that the tackle was part of a legitimate attempt to clear Juan de Jongh from a ruck. The player tackled his opponent before De Jongh had joined the ruck. In my assessment, Speight did so in response to De Jongh impeding his access to the breakdown and joining the ruck which had been formed.
"The dominant movement of his right arm, the positioning of his leg under De Jongh and that of his left hand behind De Jongh’s neck together with Speight’s driving movement on to De Jongh, caused the player to make contact with the ground, head first, in a cartwheel movement. At the moment of impact with the ground, De Jongh’s feet had been raised off the ground by Speight which constituted dangerous play in contravention of Law 10.4(j).
"The tackle caused De Jongh’s feet to lift and his head to make contact with the ground first. It was not a legitimate clean out at a ruck and the player was fortunate not to have been injured. The offending was however not premeditated and occurred in reaction to De Jongh having impeded Speight’s progress. The momentum of the players may have contributed to the result.
“An aggravating factor is the ongoing need for a deterrent for dangerous play such as this which carries with it the real risk of serious injury. As a result, two weeks were added to the sanction.
"Mitigating factors included Speight's unblemished disciplinary record over a lengthy first class career for the Brumbies in Super Rugby and Waikato in New Zealand's provincial competition. Brumbies coach, Stephen Larkham, spoke to the outstanding character of Speight and his position within the team as a leader and his work in the community. This, amongst other factors, resulted in a reduction in sanction of two weeks.
"The player’s schedule is such that the Brumbies play in the Super Rugby Semi-Finals this weekend with the potential to play in the Final the following week.
"Speight is likely to be included in the Wallabies’ squad for the upcoming Rugby Championship with the first match to be played on 18 July 2015. If not required for the Final, Speight would play club rugby in Canberra for the Gungahlin Eagles and have leave the week thereafter when Gungahlin has a bye. If the Brumbies make it to the Final he would have played and still been rested during the week of the 11th.
"As a result, the player will have at least one rest week over the next five weeks during which no match is to be played. A five-week suspension up to and including the match between Australia and Argentina on 25 July 2015 will therefore result in him missing four matches."
The player is found to have contravened Law 10.4 (j) and is suspended up to and including Saturday, July 25.