Waratahs coach Chris Hickey has questioned the SANZAR judiciary for its judgment in finding Bulls second-rower and captain, Victor Matfield, not guilty on charges of striking and charging into a ruck following the Super 14 champions’ game against the Brumbies on Saturday.
Rupert Guinness reports for RugbyHeaven Aus that the Waratahs, who play the Bulls in their third-round game at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday (4.10am Sunday, Sydney time), were stunned upon hearing the not guilty verdict on both charges that were handed to the 200 centimetre Springboks enforcer, who was summoned before a hearing on Monday.
Matfield, a 92-Test veteran who has also played 97 Super games, was cited under Law 10.4 (a) for striking Brumbies flanker Rocky Elsom around the head area in the 16th minute of their 50-32 victory. He was also cited under Law 10.4 (k) for charging into a ruck without binding on to another player.
Hickey’s chief issue is with the judiciary’s finding of not guilty on the charging allegation. He believes it contradicts the standard set by the two-week ban imposed on Waratahs forward Dean Mumm on the same charge after NSW’s win against the Reds in round one.
The tribunals for the Mumm and Matfield cases were made up of different personnel and held in the cities where the two games were held. But Hickey – as with most rugby followers – believes judgments should be based on set parameters of guilt as agreed upon by the various tribunal panels.
”It’s a surprise after Dean Mumm’s two-week suspension,” Hickey said, adding that ”I did see [the Matfield episode] on television. It was pretty clear vision of the incident.”
”Those things are dealt with by the judiciary and, look, when Dean Mumm receives two weeks for a clean out of the ruck you would think that might the standard for the competition and for all teams.”
The Matfield hearing did not impact the selection of the Waratahs for Saturday’s game, as the NSW selectors had already settled on a 22-man line-up that features several bold changes, including three positional and two personnel switches.
Daniel Halangahu has been promoted from the bench to five-eighth while Berrick Barnes moves to inside-centre. Kurtley Beale, who last weekend started at No.12 outside Barnes, is back on the bench.
”We thought our game control will be imperative for us to get through the 80 minutes,” Hickey said. ”Having ‘Hangas’ there with Berrick gives us two good callers and two good players who have extensive game control.”
Selecting a Halangahu-Barnes combination will also help shore up the Waratahs’ defence in that crucial channel, although Hickey played down that reasoning.
The other big change is in the second row. Will Caldwell moves to the bench to allow Wallabies Spring Tour member Dave Dennis to partner Kane Douglas. For Dennis, who earned his first game time as a Waratah since March 2007 off the bench last week, this will be his first Super start for NSW. By selecting Dennis over Caldwell, Hickey and his selectors have opted for speed and mobility rather than sheer strength and size in their pack.
Caldwell’s demotion to the bench has forced former Emerging Springbok Hendrik Roodt out of the 22 and a chance to play against his old Bulls teammates. Also sidelined is back Rory Sidey whose place on the bench has gone to Rob Horne, who has finally recovered from his hamstring woes. Called up to the bench for a Waratahs debut is 19-year-old Eastwood back-rower Locky McCaffrey, the Shute Shield rookie of the year last season.
Waratahs squad to play the Bulls on Saturday:
1. Benn Robinson
2. Tatafu Polota-Nau
3. Al Baxter
4. Dave Dennis
5. Kane Douglas
6. Ben Mowen
7. Phil Waugh (c)
8. Wycliff Palu
9. Luke Burgess
10. Daniel Halangahu
11. Drew Mitchell
12. Berrick Barnes
13. Tom Carter
14. Lachie Turner
15. Sosene Anesi
16. Damien Fitzpatrick
17. Sekope Kepu
18. Will Caldwell
19. Locky McCaffrey
20. Josh Holmes
21. Kurtley Beale
22. Rob Horne