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Fijian Drua captain Nemani Nagusa given heaviest suspension of season

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

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Fijian Drua captain Nemani Nagusa has been handed the heaviest suspension of the Super Rugby Pacific season thus far following his red card against the Waratahs on Friday.

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Nagusa was sent from the field during the first half of his side’s 38-14 defeat on the Gold Coast last weekend after he connected with the head of Waratahs first-five Tane Edmed with a wild swinging arm while attempting to make an off-the-ball tackle.

Nagusa was one of five players shown red cards in the latest round of Super Rugby Pacific for head-related infringements as SANZAAR cracks down on player welfare.

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The 33-year-old loose forward has subsequently received the largest punishment of all those who have faced the SANZAAR judicial committee this season.

The judicial committee has banned Nagusa for four weeks in a suspension that will keep him sidelined until their round 13 clash against Moana Pasifika in Sydney on May 14.

As such, the 18-test Fijian international will miss the Drua’s upcoming clashes against the Brumbies, Blues, Highlanders (which will be the franchise’s first Super Rugby Pacific match in Fiji) and Hurricanes.

No player has been suspended for that long so far this season. All other players who have been suspended this season – Blues prop Nepo Laulala, Crusaders hooker Shilo Klein and Reds duo Dane Zander and Tauina Tualima – received three-week bans.

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Reds prop Taniela Tupou and Brumbies fullback Tom Banks fronted the judiciary committee for separate incidents earlier in the year, but both players were either dismissed or issued a warning.

In a statement released on Wednesday, SANZAAR said it had deemed Nagusa to have contravened law 9.13, which stipulates that “a player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously”.

The judicial committee ruled that while the level of Nagusa’s offending was worthy of a six-week ban, they had slashed that suspension in half due to his good judicial record over a long career, his acceptance of foul play and his expressed remorse.

However, an additional week was added to his suspension as the judicial committee viewed the direct contact to the head with his swinging arm as particularly dangerous and warranted a deterrent penalty.

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Nagusa has been given the option by SANZAAR to forego the final week of his suspension to undertake “a coaching intervention that specifically addresses the technical tackle/contact technique error that caused or contributed to the foul play”.

That intervention, which will be overseen by a panel of independent World Rugby coaches, has also been made available to other suspended players who have been banned for head-related infringements for the first time.

Nagusa – along with Laulala, Klein and Tualima – could be joined by Blues wing Clarke Clarke in being suspended after having also been sent off over the weekend.

Clarke was red carded for colliding into the head of Moana Pasifika wing Tomasi Alosio while attempting a charge down in his side’s 46-16 win at Eden Park on Saturday, and will learn his fate on Wednesday.

The Drua will continue their campaign without Nagusa this Saturday when they host the table-topping Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

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