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The Nigel Owens verdict on the du Toit 'dangerous play' red card

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Nigel Owens has given his verdict on the red card that resulted in Springboks back-rower Pieter-Steph du Toit getting banned for three matches following his red-carded eleventh-minute breakdown collision last Saturday with France’s Jonathan Danty.

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The French midfielder was struck by du Toit in Marseille, an action that Owens described as dangerous play. However, his review of the clash in the latest episode of his Whistle Watch programme also posed an interesting question – might Springboks teammate Jasper Wiese, who pushed du Toit forward into the ruck, have been red-carded if the incident was viewed differently by referee Wayne Barnes?

On the replay showing the build-up to the collision near the French ten-metre line, Springboks No8 Wiese is seen placing his hands on the buttocks of the stooped du Toit and propelling him forward into the breakdown.

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“Let’s make one thing clear, this is dangerous play,” began Owens when reviewing the footage of du Toit clattering into Danty. “When you look at the actual incident itself, the head contact, it is dangerous play, it is a red card.

“There is no doubt about that but the interesting thing is this, if you look just before the contact there is a push by a fellow South African player into du Toit which causes him then to maybe land up with this action, so the interesting thing here is who gets the red card?

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“Does du Toit get it? Does the player who pushed him get it? That basically comes down to your interpretation on the day as the referee. So, to wrap it all up for you, it is a red card. If you feel that du Toit goes in the position, nothing he could do about it, it’s a red card to du Toit. If you felt that the push caused it then you would be quite right in giving a red card to the player [Wiese] who pushed him. So there you go, dangerous play, red card.”

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At his disciplinary hearing, du Toit denied that he had committed an act of foul play worthy of a red card. However, the judicial committee determined otherwise, finding the play by the Springboks forward to be reckless.

They added: “Although there were some external factors identified with respect to the incident, they were not, on the evidence before the judicial committee, of a sufficient degree to justify a reclassification of the offending to below red card.”

The heading resulted in a suspension entry point of six weeks that was reduced to three, leaving du Toit suspended for this Saturday’s match versus Italy, the November 26 game against England and one other yet-to-be-confirmed fixture.

That unconfirmed third match of the ban can be scratched, though, if du Toit applies to take part in the coaching intervention programme, which is essentially World Rugby’s tackle school.

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