Haskell suspended for 3 weeks


The SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Mike Heron has accepted a guilty plea from James Haskell of the Highlanders for contravening Law 10.4 (a) Punching or Striking after he was Cited during a Super Rugby Match at the Weekend.

Haskell struck Cheetahs player Justin Downey twice as he left a scrum that was being completed, with a scuffle breaking out between several players following the incident.

Haskell has been suspended from all forms of the game for three weeks to and including Saturday 19 May 2012.

The incident occurred in the 33rd minute of the match between the Cheetahs and Highlanders at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on the 28th April.

SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Mike Heron assessed the case.

In his finding, Mike Heron ruled the following:

James Haskell was cited for punching in the Highlanders v Cheetahs match on 28 April 2012 in Bloemfontein. 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, footage on the SANZAR intranet, citing report, match officials report and a medical report), I followed the Duty JO process via telephone calls with the player, his lawyer and other Highlanders personnel.  At the end of that process, I gave an indication of penalty of 3 weeks’ suspension.  After having time to consider that, the player accepted that suspension. Accordingly, James Haskell is suspended from all forms of the game for the 3 weeks to and including Saturday 19 May 2012 (that includes three scheduled Super Rugby matches).

My reasons are as follows:

The citing alleged that James Haskell punched the Cheetahs number 7 (Justin Downey) twice, the first with his right hand to Downey’s head (after being held and retaliating) and the second with a left jab in the face.  The citing alleged that the second resulted in Downey going down on his haunches holding his face.  The footage confirmed that, and Haskell accepted that he had punched the Cheetahs player twice.  The citing report also stated that Downey received stitches for a gash on his eyebrow. That was confirmed by the medical report.

I discussed the incident with the player, his lawyer and Highlanders personnel.  It was immediately accepted that the conduct did amount to foul play. There were two punches as described in the citing in a very short timeframe, at least the second of which appeared to connect forcefully, and one or other must have caused the injury to the Cheetahs player. I accept, and the footage confirms, that Haskell was responding to provocation in that he was being held into the dissembling scrum (unlawfully it seems) and it appeared that he was being grabbed in a particularly sensitive area. The player agreed that this did not excuse his conduct, but it was submitted and I accept that it was some explanation for the loss of control that occurred. That said, there was no argument that the conduct was unacceptable.

In the circumstances I find that the conduct was intentional, repeated and dangerous, but in the context of what appeared to be significant provocation.  I find the conduct warrants an entry point of mid-range.  The appropriate starting point in my view is five weeks’ suspension (IRB Regulation 17 Appendix 1).

The injury to the player and the repeated punches are an aggravating factor which warrant an increase of one week in my view, making a penalty of six weeks suspension. In mitigation, Haskell immediately accepted his conduct was unacceptable. He apologised to the Cheetahs player and to me. He expressed significant remorse for his conduct, in particular for the impact it would have on his team. Haskell has a very impressive record over a period of approximately 10 years of professional rugby. I was told that he has no previous citings and has received only a single yellow card in his professional career (which was not for foul play). He has dealt with serious provocation in the past without resort to this unacceptable conduct. He is passionate about his commitment to the Highlanders and expressed sincere regret as to the impact this would have on his time with them. His coach spoke in support of his character and I accept the submissions on his behalf. He received a yellow card, which in turn adversely impacted on the Highlanders during the game (and is some penalty).

To recognise and acknowledge the immediate guilty plea, his impressive record and the sincere remorse shown I am prepared to reduce the sanction by a period of three weeks, resulting in an ultimate sanction of three weeks. 

Accordingly, James Haskell is suspended from all forms of the game for the three weeks to and including Saturday 19 May 2012

Facebook Comments


  1. 3 weeks for punching a guy twice? Okay he does have an impressive record over ten years and that should count for something. But two punches and only 3 weeks? Sounds wrong to me.

  2. I thought punching is an
    automatic red card?
    The TMO could have confirmed
    this within seconds.
    But they don’t use the TMO.
    :Rule 9:

  3. Should have got another week for being a Pom… he’s had a good season so far though (bar this)…

  4. Boertjie Im not a fan of the red card. Yellow cards and suspensions is good enough for me. A red card makes the match way to unfair.

  5. “Haskell was responding to provocation in that he was being held into the dissembling scrum (unlawfully it seems) and it appeared that he was being grabbed in a particularly sensitive area”.

    As mentioned on Reunion, he was being held onto in an area a man doesn’t like another man to venture. All I can say is that Downey must have a vice-like grip or Haskell is well endowed if the grip on that part of his anatomy prevented him dissembling with the rest of the scrum. :Rule 9:

    Don’t think the Highlanders management will be seeing the funny side – Cheetahs put 7 points over them within minutes of Haskell and Hore both being carded. Could have lost them the game.

  6. It seems lenient application of the
    laws are the in thing:
    Put in at scrums.
    Off-sides at kick offs.
    Obstruction and off-sides at rucks.
    Not to mention the fine art of obstructive
    running displayed by the Antipodeans.

    Everything to let the game “flow”.

  7. Reply to Timeo @ 2:12 pm: yep, a lot of people like to refer to that youtube clip. Aren’t you suspicious of the narrator having a polished english accent yet it is hosted by an aussie site?

    Yes Green and Gold is not our groen and goud – they have claimed those colours as theirs. They might be the Anzac cousins of NZ but the Aussies will come up with any dirt they can on the AB’s because they get so pissed off losing to them more often than they win. So I take these video clips with a pinch of salt as they most often are carefully chosen to suit the purposes of the person picking the clips.

  8. I guess the answer is that the really disciplined players rise above the temptation to dish out retribution themselves if the ref misses something. You can only admire guys who are able to do this – Matfield springs to mind as an example of a cool player in control of himself. Bakkies was an idiot to go chasing Cowan and headbut him because Cowan had supposedly held him back just as Haskell realises he was stupid to punch Downey for whatever dastardly deed he had commited. By playing referee and dishing out retribution, Haskell put himself in the category of the short fuse brigade who are targeted by the more astute teams because they know they are walking yellow or red cards. Probably the reason why Jamie Joseph the Highlanders coach left Manu on the field and Haskell off when his sin bin time was up.

  9. Reply to Aldo @ 12:25 pm:

    You have a point re red cards.
    I forgot about the white card,
    which can always postpone the
    transgression for punishment
    without disrupting the game.
    Good move.

  10. Not to mention the fine art of obstructive
    running displayed by the Antipodeans – lol Boertjie! And you know of course where that art arises? Rugby league – you see it in nearly every ARL game whether it is the NZ Warriors or an Ausssie side playing.

    As for lenient application of the laws being the in thing for the sake of keeping the game flowing, you are probably right. But would you prefer the ref to penalise the hell out of the game for every marginal call? I wouldn’t. The smart teams learn quickly to adapt to the way the referee is calling the game which is why those who were at the last Boks v Aus game in Wellington were more angry with the slow to adapt Boks and their coaching team than they were with Bryce.

  11. Reply to Boertjie @ 3:04 pm: Good point and probably the reason the ref (was it Craig Joubert) ignored the ra’s advice to dish out a red card and went for the yellow. On Reunion tonight they played that audio clip and mischieviously suggested that the ref had taken the wrong card out of his pocket but the real reason is probably that the ref was more awake than his ra and onto Aldo’s way of thinking.

  12. Reply to out wide @ 3:12 pm:

    The scrums are not a real contest anymore.
    A lot of the magic has disappeared.
    As for offsides: Refs being stringent and
    teams “adapting” will IMO lead to a more
    flowing game.

  13. Reply to out wide @ 3:12 pm: on Superrugby on Kyknet last night, Andre Markgraaff made a comment regarding scrums, that makes a huge amount of sense. Excpet for the too long pause, he said the fact that the ball is not put in straight, makes the scrums uncontestable, in other words the players play for the penalty, cos the hooker cannot go for a heal against the head, which forces the scrum downward. I played hooker before moving to scrumhalf and then flyhalf, and I know when you try and hook the ball against the feed, the fronrow is a bit more upright, in other words the scrum does not fall.

    Because of the refs not blowing every time a ball is put in scew into a scrum, they actually contribute to the scrum falling, cos as the opponent on a scrumfeed, the last thing you want is the scrum to fall if you can get one against the throw. You keep it up by actually hooking.

    So by simply apllying the laws strictly, the refs can actually contribute to scrums staying up and a more free flowing game, not as the nay sayers that think the scrum is just a starting point. Just imagine less restarts at scrumtime, and a more flowing game, by actually allowing a competative scrum its rightfull place on a rugbyfield. Fkn awesome!