Waratahs halfback Brett Sheehan has being cited for a dangerous tackle in the last seconds of their win over the Sharks on Saturday and may have played his last game for NSW.
Sheehan will appear before a SANZAR judiciary in Durban on Monday and if found guilty and suspended will miss the Waratahs’ final game of the regular season against the Lions on Friday. It would also leave the Waratahs with the dilemma of having to decide who could cover for Sheehan as the back-up half for Luke Burgess, who played very well on Saturday. For Sheehan, who earned his 50th cap for NSW in Saturday’s 16-12 win at ABSA Stadium, such an outcome could be a sad finish to his Waratahs days after signing a two-year deal with the Western Force last week.
Rupert Guinness reports for Rugbyheaven that the charge against Sheehan stemmed from his hit on Sharks outside-centre Brad Barritt in the last minute of the game. The impact of his right shoulder knocked Barritt out. It also earned the immediate wrath of local television commentators and left Sharks coach John Plumtree in no doubt that Sheehan would be cited.
“I would expect so, yeah definitely,” he said when asked after the game. “The player was knocked unconscious for about 40 seconds. He is OK. He is walking around, which is good.”
After reviewing footage of the incident, Waratahs coach Chris Hickey believes they have a strong case to defend Sheehan. Hickey said the incident was accidental and was confident Sheehan would be cleared.
“It is clear that what he was trying to do is follow the ball and push through on [Ruan] Pienaar and they had a collision. There are plenty of collisions in rugby,” Hickey said. “There wasn’t any intent to try and tackle Barritt. He was trying to get through onto Pienaar.
“It all happens very quickly. Barritt is coming towards Sheehan, then onloads the ball. Brett is trying to get past to get to Pienaar who now has the ball and they collide. It’s a solid case, but you are never confident going into a judiciary because you don’t know what is going to come out of it. But I feel confident the charges will be dismissed.”
Sheehan, who came on for Burgess in the 60th minute when NSW were 11-9 up, also said the incident was accidental and pointed to the fact he immediately went over to check on Barritt when he realised the Sharks centre was down.
“There was no way that that was intentional. No way did I mean to hurt him. When I saw him down I was concerned and went over to see if he was OK,” Sheehan said.
Without Sheehan, Burgess would be the Waratahs’ only halfback on tour. Junior Waratahs halfback Jeremy Sua is probably not yet ready in his playing development to be flown over to Johannesburg during the week and then parachuted into such a big game.
Hickey said he and his assistant coaches “really haven’t discussed that yet” but one option would be five-eighth Daniel Halangahu, who has the passing game for the job.
The Waratahs will remain in Durban to train for the Lions game until Wednesday, when they will head to Johannesburg for the game at Coca Cola Park – formerly Ellis Park. An added challenge for NSW – as if there were not enough – will be the high altitude that they also experienced in their first game on tour, against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.Tweet