UPDATE: MEALAMU’S SENTENCE HALVED ON APPEAL.
Hypocricy comes in many forms, but none more so apparent as the All Blacks “outrage”over the four-week ban for hooker Keven Mealamu.
Brenden Nel, SuperSport
His suspension was reduced after an appeal panel decided he had not intentionally meant to headbutt Moody during the match, which the All Blacks won 26-16.
His headbutt on English flanker Lewis Moody deserved more – perhaps not the nine-week suspension handed down to Bok lock Bakkies Botha – but a lot more than the month break he is forced to take.
But while most of us viewed the replays of the incident, shook our heads and muttered to each other : “he’s going to get cited for that”, the real surprise is how the All Blacks, those mighty custodians of what is good and right in the game, reacted to the suspension.
In a year when referees are almost terrified to penalise New Zealand because their boss Paddy O’Brien controls their appointments. (his thumbs up for Alain Rolland’s handling of Richie McCaw in the Tri-Nations is just one example), the way the All Blacks have come out in defence of Mealamu borders on the ridiculous.
McCaw was right when he pointed out the inconsistencies of the judicial system, especially after the cheap shot from English hooker Dylan Hartley went unpunished by the citing commissioner. But for a respected captain who plays down controversy, his team management have tarnished more than just the All Blacks’ reputation.
Remember all those “thuggery”calls after the Botha incident. The Bok lock was indefensible and we all knew it. Botha took his punishment like a man, the Bok came home and apologised, served out his ban and we respected him for it.
The All Blacks were also mum when Tony Woodcock escaped censure for punching Saia Fainga’a during this year’s final Tri-Nations game.
But Mealamu has appealed (as is his right) and the All Blacks have gone on the offensive. While we are all wondering if a Bok player with a similar incident would have gotten off so lightly, the All Black management are trying every bit of spin to disguise a disgraceful incident.
All Black assistant coach Steve Hansen’s defence of the hooker must now rate up there alongside Peter de Villiers’s ill-timed defence of Schalk Burger during the Lions series last year. Consider the following:
“What we are talking about here is a guy whose character is being questioned and it shouldn’t be. Everyone is disappointed and gutted for Kevvy, everyone knows it is not in his nature to do that,” Hansen said.
“Everyone knows that if Kevvy said he didn’t do it, he didn’t do it.”
Hansen added that Mealamu was “a one-off special person. He hasn’t got a dirty bone in his body.
“He’s not a dirty player, he never has been. This is a case we’ll go to the death on.”
Ok, so that’s settled then. “Kevvy” said he didn’t do it, so he didn’t do it. A clean sportsman, according to the All Blacks, who has been slighted by the fact that Moody dared make contact with his head. Understandable, after all, Moody was on the ground and should have anticipated a flying Mealamu coming in.
Unpunished spear tackle
Strange too that Mealamu was one of the players who – according to the British press – “got away” with spear-tackling Brian O’Driscoll in the 2005 Lions tour. Only it wasn’t a spear tackle, and it wasn’t punished.
In the same series Danny Grewcock was banned for two months for biting Mealamu’s fingers. Grewcock claimed the hooker had tried to hook his mouth, a claim that was never substantiated and which have made some – like former English test player Brian Moore – wonder “why Mealamu’s fingers were in Grewcock’s mouth in the first place.”
All the spin aside. A headbutt is a headbutt. It is a top level offence according to the International Rugby Board. As such, if it is deemed a headbutt, it should be punished accordingly.
Mealamu may be a Christian, and a “nice guy” (as is Bakkies, by the way), but his actions should be judged on the moment of madness itself, and an appeal could always come back with a harsher sentence.
Four weeks is a light sentence and given the reaction from the All Blacks, you can’t help but understand if there isn’t a lot of love for them in Europe – or the rest of the rugby world – right now.