Butch James has been suspended for 4 weeks following a guilty plea for foul play.
The SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Mike Heron has accepted a guilty plea from Butch James of the Lions for contravening Law 10.4 (h) A player must not charge into a ruck or maul. Charging includes any contact made without use of the arms, or without grasping that player, after he was Cited during a Super Rugby Match at the Weekend. James charged into a ruck near the Brumbies Goal Line and made contact with Brumbies player Scott Fardy after a penalty had been blown to the Lions.
James has been suspended from all forms of the game for the four weeks to and including Saturday 26 May 2012.
The incident occurred in the 63rd minute of the match between the Lions and Brumbies in Johannesburg at Coca Cola Park on Friday 27th April.
SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Mike Heron assessed the case.
In his finding, Mike Heron ruled the following:
Butch James was cited for dangerous charging into a ruck in the Lions v Brumbies match on 27 April 2012. He was given a yellow card on the field, and the incident was referred to the citing commissioner (white card). The matter came to me as Duty JO. After reviewing the relevant material (including the match footage and footage on the SANZAR intranet), I followed the Duty JO process via telephone calls with the player, his lawyer, the Lions team manager and other personnel. At the end of that process, I gave an indication of penalty of four weeks’ suspension. After having time to consider that, the player accepted that suspension. Accordingly, Butch James is suspended from all forms of the game for the four weeks to and including Saturday 26 May 2012 (that includes four scheduled Super Rugby matches). My reasons are as follows: The citing alleged that Butch James robustly and recklessly from some meters charged into the ruck and made contact with the Brumbies player in a defenseless crouching position contesting for ball. The citing alleged the contact was against the head and jaw of the Brumbies player that knocked him over and he landed on the ground dazed. It was noted that the player played on again. I find that this describes the incident accurately. The Lions were awarded a penalty just before James made contact with the Brumbies player. The contact was made at speed and James made no attempt to grasp him in any legitimate tackle or clean out. The contact was to the head, neck and shoulder area of the Brumbies player and was dangerous by virtue of its location, the speed and force involved and the lack of ability for the Brumbies player to prepare himself. I find that the tackle was in breach of Law 10.4(h) and do not need to look at the alternate basis for the citing (10.4(k)). I talked through the match footage with the player, his lawyer (Mr Kellerman) and, in particular Mr Ferreira the Lions technical analyst. They made legitimate points in mitigation as to the incident, including that the entry into the ruck was lawful and that James was committed by the time of the penalty. It was accepted, however, that the conduct did amount to foul play and through his counsel, the player expressed remorse for the incident. In the circumstances I find that the conduct was intentional and dangerous, and accordingly warrants an entry point of mid-range. The appropriate starting point in my view is five weeks’ suspension (from IRB Regulation 17 Appendix 1).
I note that the Brumbies player continued to play after appearing to be injured temporarily. I did not have complete medical information from the Brumbies (through no fault of theirs) but I received a note to the effect that the Brumbies player remained affected by the contact after the game. James explained that he spoke to the Brumbies player at the end of the match and asked him whether he was okay – James stated that the player said he was. In the circumstances I do not add any further penalty for this matter. Butch James has one previous disciplinary matter relating to a dangerous tackle from the 2011 season. He was suspended for four weeks as a result of a dangerous tackle that was categorised as intentional, high and dangerous. I have considered whether to add a further penalty for this previous incident, but have decided not to in the circumstances, including that the conduct is not sufficiently similar and to do so could amount to punishing the player twice. At the very least, the existence of this previous matter removes the ability for James to receive any discount for an otherwise good record. Matters in mitigation include the players acceptance of his wrong, his remorse for the same (expressed to me) and his plea of guilty. He received a yellow card, which in turn adversely impacted on the Lions during the game (and is some penalty). The player has a long and impressive rugby record, and it was submitted that any suspension from Super Rugby at this stage in his career would have a particularly marked impact (I accept that). Through counsel, he was remorseful and apologetic for his conduct. To recognise and acknowledge the immediate guilty plea and remorse, I am prepared to reduce the sanction by a week, resulting in an ultimate sanction of four weeks. Accordingly, Butch James is suspended from all forms of the game for the four weeks to and including Saturday 26 May 2012