Questions raised after Du Plessis is cleared



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A lack of evidence saw Cheetahs prop Jannie du Plessis cleared on a charge of biting a Hurricanes player in the Hurricanes’ 37-15 win over the South African outfit at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, on Friday.

Du Plessis was cited for allegedly biting Hurricanes fullback Cory Jane. The claim, of alleged biting, was made by Jane and citing commissioner Steve Hinds then decided to proceed with the case.

The Cheetahs prop was charged to appear before SANZAR (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby) Judicial Officer Bruce Squire at the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) offices in Wellington on Saturday.

Squire said in his finding that the citing was not upheld because “it had not been proved to the standard required” for the serious allegation the citing involved.

The issue again raised the question of possible witch hunts against South Africans on tour in Australasia.

Cheetahs team manager Naka Drotsk’ expressed his relief at the outcome.

“We said from the outset that he did nothing wrong and he pleaded not guilty,” Drotsk’ told this website shortly after the hearing in Wellington.

“There simply was no evidence [to support the charge].

“”To say somebody bit somebody is a very serious charge. It can place a player in a very bad light.

“We are happy that justice was served,” Drotsk’ added.

Drotsk’, aware of the fact that he can land in hot water if he speaks out against the system, was reluctant to say too much.

However, he did hint that something was amiss.

“I can’t say too much, but it is unbelievable that on the video you can’t see anything that suggests Jannie [du Plessis] was biting the guy, but you can see clearly that three punches were landed [by Jane on Du Plessis] and we are standing in the accused’s dock,” Drotsk’ said.

He admitted that they were puzzled by the reasons for the charge.

“We asked ourselves on what was the charge based. Something must have happened.

“He [Jane] was holding on to the ball on the ground and Jannie [du Plessis] was wrestling with him to get the ball away. He said he thought he was bitten and he retaliated and punched Jannie [du Plessis].”

The statement issued by the Judicial Officer, Squire, also made it clear that there was no grounds for citing the Cheetahs prop.

Squire said that the citing was not upheld because it had “not been proved to the standard required” for the serious allegation the citing involved.

“There was a clear conflict in the evidence,” Squire said in a statement.

“The Hurricanes player was clear he had been bitten by Du Plessis and Du Plessis was equally adamant that he was not guilty of such conduct.”

Squire said the video evidence did not assist in resolving the issue and the only evidence which did assist was that of the Hurricanes team doctor, who saw the injury to the Hurricanes player immediately after the incident occurred.

However, according to Squire’s statement the doctor’s evidence was “equivocal”.

That means it was at the very least open to two or more interpretations and often intended to mislead; or ambiguous.

“Although he described the injury he saw as consistent with a bite, he also conceded that it was equally consistent with the application of the mouth to the arm in a fashion which did not involve a biting action,” Squire said in his statement.

“In that regard, it was not without significance that an indentation which he thought had been caused in the incident had disappeared shortly after suggesting the absence of any pressure having been applied as might have been expected had there been a bite.

“He also conceded he could not exclude the possibility the injury he saw resulted from the application of a nail or a pinch.”

In the absence of any independent evidence available to resolve the conflict in the evidence of the two players concerned, Squire concluded that the standard of proof required for an allegation of this seriousness had not been met and the citing was not upheld.

By Jan de Koning 365 Digital 

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