Michael Cheika leapt to the defence of Israel Folau after the Wallabies full-back controversially escaped further punishment for pulling the hair of Dillyn Leyds.
The first half of Saturday’s 27-27 draw between South Africa and Australia ended in tempestuous fashion after a round of nose-to-nose squabbling was sparked by South Africa captain Eben Etzebeth’s furious reaction to Folau hauling Leyds to the turf by his hair.
Referee Ben O’Keefe took no action besides awarding the Boks a penalty for a high tackle.
South Africa coach Allister Coetzee said they would refer the matter to SANZAAR, while Leyds claimed: “He actually pulled me by the hair twice. He had one go at it and then he got his left hand on and pulled me down again.
“I don’t know what their version of the story is, but 100 per cent he got me by the hair.”
Despite fairly conclusive video proof to the contrary, Cheika was insistent that his player had done no such thing.
“He grabbed the guy around the collar,” Cheika said.
“He gets penalised for that and then the other bloke [Etzebeth] comes in and charges, and doesn’t get [Folau] with the elbow, but he was angling that way, and nothing is said about that.
“He grabs the guy around the collar… he didn’t wrap his forearm around him or anything like that. That’s a penalty, that’s fine. But then the other guy comes charging in, and he’s the captain of the other team. I don’t get it.”
When pressed further, Cheika added: “You’ve got to watch the vision [replay]. He got him by the collar.
“He didn’t come in and grab him by the hair. Who tackles somebody by the hair? Forget about it. It’s a non-issue.”
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