Thu 16 Jun 2016 | 10:43

Law discussion: Stander's red

Law discussion: Stander's red
Thu 16 Jun 2016 | 10:43
Law discussion: Stander's red

South Africa win the ball and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk passes to flyhalf Pat Lambie. Lambie kicks ahead. CJ Stander of Ireland makes contact with Lambie who is laid out.


The referee sends Stander off (red card).

There were differing opinions. Some said it was harsh – 'commentator speak' for excessive; some thought it should have been a yellow card; some thought penalty only; and one – for all Boundary Road could hear him as his microphoned voice came up from the Lawns – announced that he would have had 'play on' if he'd been refereeing. That's a wide spectrum of difference from red card to nothing at all.

It took a long time for Lambie to be taken from the field on a mobile stretcher, time that could be filled up with many replays.

You will have heard it said – usually by those favouring leniency – that things look worse on slow motion but the advantage of slow motion is that it gives us the time-line of actions and clarity of what actually happened.

You will also hear about commitment as a mitigating circumstance. 'Commitment' is part of the player's action and intention.  Commitment does not alter the fact of what happened.

Lambie kicked.

When he kicked, Stander's feet were sill on the ground.

When Stander leapt, the ball had passed him.

Stander contacts Lambie's face and head.

Stander did not extend his arms in the usual action of one trying the charge down a kick.

Stander's contact with Lambie was late – too late to make contact with a player in possession of the ball.


That last point is of first importance.

There is nothing in the laws of rugby that says that a player is obliged to tackle.

There are laws stating what must not happen in a tackle.

In recent times there have been laws forbidding tackling above the line of the shoulders, laws forbidding tackling a player when he is in the air and laws forbidding tackles in which the arms are not out to enfold the tackled players.


And, since 1862 at least and more explicitly from 1888 onwards when penalty kicks were introduced, tackling a player not in possession of the ball has been forbidden.

This, sadly, has been somewhat watered down by what is allowed at the clean-out – which is not relevant here.

Stander's contact with Lambie was late. That is penalisable.

It was also dangerous – flying hip against stationary face.

Nobody made Stander do what he did. What he did was of his own volition and instigation. As such it was intentional.

Of course, he did not set out to injure Lambie – at least one devoutly hopes that that was the case – but his action was clearly dangerous. Lambie did not put his face in the way of Stander's hip but Stander certainly put his hip in the way of Lambie's face.

Law 10.4 (e) Playing a player without the ball is dangerous play.

Sanction: Penalty kick

(f) Playing an opponent without the ball. Except in a scrum, ruck or maul, a player who is not in possession of the ball must not hold, push or obstruct an opponent not carrying the ball.

Sanction: Penalty kick

(g) Dangerous charging. A player must not charge or knock down an opponent carrying the ball without trying to grasp that player.

Sanction: Penalty kick

(o) Late-charging the kicker. A player must not intentionally charge or obstruct an opponent who has just kicked the ball.

Sanction: The non-offending team-may choose to take the penalty kick either at the place of infringement, where the ball lands, or where it was next played.

Place of infringement. If the infringement takes place in the kicker’s in-goal, the penalty kick is taken 5 metres from the goal-line in line with the place of infringement but at least 15 metres from the touchline.

The non-offending team-may also choose to take the penalty where the ball lands or is next played before landing and at least 15 metres from the touchline.

Where the ball lands. If the ball lands in touch, the mark for the optional penalty kick is on the 15-metre line, in line with where it went into touch. If the ball lands, or is next played before landing, within 15 metres of the touchline, the mark is on the 15-metre line opposite where the ball landed or was played.

There are certainly cogent reasons enough for the referee to send Stander off. There is courage in what the referee did – follow his conviction instead of opting for the middle path of a yellow card.

Referees are better able to judge that than non-referees.

PV: 4
Law discussion: Stander's red | Rugby365