Bye loophole closes for Super Rugby and Tests

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

SANZAAR is closing a controversial loophole that has allowed Test and Super Rugby players to use club rugby matches towards suspensions.

The competition’s governing body has moved to exclude any bye weeks from counting towards a suspension, meaning teams can not argue that a player would have been playing in their local competition.

It’s a grey area that has been exploited in recent years, most notably in 2015, when Michael Hooper and the Wallabies were able to argue that the then-Test captain would have lined up for Manly in the Shute Shield in the week between Argentina and New Zealand Tests.

The Crusaders managed to use the loophole to reduce the absence of winger Nemani Nadolo last season, while the Waratahs and Reds argues the same case for Tolu Latu and Sef Fa’agase, respectively.

SANZAAR have opted to make the change in order to try and even up the playing field among nations, with no club competition in Argentina, in some parts of South Africa and Japan.

The international body has introduced a three-man Foul Play Review Committee, consisting of chair Nigel Hampton QC (New Zealand), John Langford (Australia) and Stefan Terblanche (South Africa).

This committee will review all red cards and citing commissioner referrals, ultimately determining whether players should be sanctioned.

Players can accept or refuse the committee’s decisions, with the latter forcing a judicial hearing.

Michael Hooper was suspended in 2015 after Australia's Test against Argentina. Photo: Getty ImagesSANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos said he believed the changes would address many of the issues faced in the Super Rugby competition.

 “The new process is the result of the identification of certain challenges within the application of an effective and consistent judicial process,” he said.

“It has followed a comprehensive review of Super Rugby 2016 and a consultation process with the Four National Unions (ARU, NZR, SARU and UAR).

“The changes also follow World Rugby’s acceptance, following a Judicial Review Conference last year, that competition organisers be allowed to tailor judicial processes to suit the challenges associated within their competitions.

“SANZAAR believes Super Rugby has unique challenges across six territories and 15 time zones and the enhanced Super Rugby judicial process will deliver a more streamlined and effective system for teams and a more consistent outcome for players and fans to identify with."