Rugby Union: 'A playground for animals': Callard attacks S Africans for clearing Van den Berg

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SOUTH AFRICA'S rugby authorities yesterday dismissed the case against the Eastern Province forward whose indelicate footwork opened up Jonathan Callard's face during England's tour last month.

The verdict on Elandre van den Berg, who appeared at yesterday's hearing, provoked an infuriated response from Callard, who required 25 stitches after the incident - which was followed moments later by a brawl that ended in the dismissal of the England back row Tim Rodber and Simon Tremain of EP. 'The only comment I can make is that the player was found not guilty of intentionally trampling on Jonathan Callard,' Arrie Oberholzer, the South African Rugby Football Union's general manager, said.

A full report is being prepared for the Rugby Football Union, whose own three-man panel meets tomorrow to consider events in Port Elizabeth. Rodber will be in attendance. As it was the RFU which insisted on the Sarfu inquiry and presented a sheaf of written evidence against Van den Berg, the panel is bound to regard yesterday's outcome as profoundly unsatisfactory.

Likewise Callard. 'It's an absurd judgment,' he said. 'It seems the South Africans are not worried about the image of the game. I almost feel as if they are making it a playground for animals.'

The circumstantial evidence provided by the video recording shows Van den Berg using the boot at a ruck and Callard emerging from it with his injuries. This had satisfied a panel of inquiry headed by a judge that Van den Berg had had a case to answer.