All Blacks prop Ofa Tuungafasi has been hit with a three-week suspension by SANZAAR for the controversial red card he was shown during the first half of Bledisloe IV in Brisbane last weekend.
The 28-year-old was sent from the field in the 23rd minute by referee Nic Berry for a dangerous tackle on Wallabies wing Tom Wright, as his shoulder connected with the chin of the Australian debutant.
The decision was polarising among fans and pundits, but SANZAAR’s judicial committee has upheld the decision, slapping Tuungafasi with a ban that has ruled the experienced prop out until the beginning on next year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the three-man judicial committee, chaired by Robert Stelzner SC, deemed that Tuungafasi contravened Law 9.13: A player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously.
As a result, Tuungafasi will be out of action up to and including February 20, a week before the Blues kick-off their season against the Hurricanes in Wellington.
The law considers dangerous tackling to be tackling or attempting to tackle an opponent above the line of the shoulders, even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders.
“Having conducted a detailed review of all the available evidence, including all camera angles and additional evidence, including submissions from the player and from his legal representative, Stephen Cottrell, by majority decision the judicial committee upheld the red card under Law 9.13,” Stelzner said.
It means the 39-test star will take no further part in New Zealand’s Tri-Nations campaign, which continues on Saturday when they play Argentina at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney.
Tuungafasi will also miss the second test against the Pumas in Newcastle on November 28, which doubles as the final match of the year for the All Blacks.
However, the impact of Tuungafasi’s unavailability will be reduced by the return of tighthead prop Nepo Laulala, who returns to the All Blacks set-up after having been on paternity leave.
Laulala hasn’t featured for the All Blacks since the side’s 27-7 victory over the Wallabies in Bledisloe II in Auckland last month.
Fellow prop Joe Moody will also be available for selection this week after missing the past two test due a concussion he sustained in that test at Eden Park.
The decision to ban Tuungafasi for three weeks is similar to that of SANZAAR’s ban of Wallabies loose forward Lachie Swinton, who was also red carded in Saturday’s clash due to a head high tackle on All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock.
Having also connected with his shoulder his opponent’s head, Swinton – who was on debut for Australia – was handed a four-week suspension for also contravening Law 9.13.
Swinton’s punishment was reduced from its initial six-week due to various mitigating factors, of which included the player’s early guilty plea.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now