Sharks off the hook for playing with 16 men


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SANZAR has concluded its full investigation into the incident which saw the Sharks fielding 16 players for a short period of time during in their Super 14 match against the Reds in Durban last Saturday, 29 March.

The investigation was led by SANZAR Tournament Director, Johan Botes, and he was assisted by the SANZAR Regional Tournament Directors from Australia and New Zealand as well as the SANZAR Referee Managers. They studied reports submitted by the Match Referee, Chris Pollock (NZRU) and the Match Sideline Manager, Burton Hufkie (SARU).

The investigation found that the following sequence of events occurred during the stipulated period:

  • In the 69th minute of the match, the sideline match officials made a substitution for each team, one of which was a request by the Sharks for their Number 5, Johan Muller, to be replaced by Number 16, Craig Burden. At the time of the substitution Muller received treatment for an injury on the far side of the field, away from the sideline match officials.

  • The referee, Chris Pollock, was informed that the substitution had been completed and he therefore allowed the match to continue.

  • After being treated for his injury, Muller, rather than leaving the field of play having been replaced by Burden, continued to participate in the match.

  • In the 70th minute of the match, referee Pollock was informed that there were 16 Sharks players on the field. With the Reds in possession of the ball at the time, Pollock resolved to allow play to continue until play stopped or the Reds lost possession ‘ whichever arose first.

  • The next stoppage occurred a few second later in the 70th minute when Sharks Number 16 Burden was penalised for incorrect entry at the tackle. The referee called Time Off and called his Assistant Referee, Bryce Lawrence (NZRU), onto the field to discuss the issue of there being 16 Sharks players on the field.

  • Once satisfied that the matter was resolved and that the Sharks Number 5 had left the Field of Play, the referee restarted the game with a Penalty Kick to the Reds at the location of the original infringement – incorrect entry at the tackle by Sharks number 16.

According to the clock on Supersport’s live coverage of the match, the incident occurred from 69min.29sec. to 70min.20sec. Play therefore lasted 51 seconds from the time the referee was informed of the substitution to the time that the referee restarted the game with a penalty to the Reds (for infringement at the tackle).

Following the completion of the investigation, SANZAR has reached the following conclusions, that:

  • The Match Referee, Chris Pollock, acted appropriately in his dealing with the situation.

  • The incident arose as a result of a breakdown in communication between the Match Officials’ sideline management team and the Sharks’ management.

  • The Sharks were found not to have made any detrimental contribution to the incident.

  • There was no material impact on the final result of the match. Therefore, the result, score and points awarded remain unchanged.

The South Africa Rugby Union has advised that it has already addressed the issue with the sideline management officials and undertook to take remedial action in order to avoid any such recurrences.   


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