Rugby Union: South African suspended for his sending-off: Eastern Province takes action

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The Independent Online
WITH England trying their best to look ahead to tomorrow's second Test against South Africa at Newlands, the Eastern Province Rugby Union forced them to look backwards last night when it suspended Simon Tremain, sent off with Tim Rodber on Tuesday, for a fortnight.

But the EPRU took no action against Elandre van den Berg for the stamping which opened up Jonathan Callard's face and needed 25 stitches. Instead it expressed outrage against England for purporting to be innocents in the battle of Boet Erasmus. Trevor Jennings, the union's president, even suggested it was all a vicious English pre-Test plot.

The EPRU 's emergency disciplinary hearing followed the outcry by England against Van den Berg and by the South African Rugby Union president, Louis Luyt, against the sending-off-sufficient decision of the disciplinary committee who judged Rodber and Tremain. It comprised the two team managers, Jack Rowell and Peter Zehmke, and was chaired by the EPRU's Johan Westerveld, who made it clear on Tuesday he deplored the leniency of their decision.

Tremain's two-week suspension is the minimum laid down in Sarfu regulations for a dismissal, a punishment that effectively challenges the England management to do the same and so rule Rodber out of tomorrow's game. Yesterday, Rodber was included in the Test team despite not having trained for two days because of a stomach upset.

The EPRU meeting in Port Elizabeth heard from Neville Heilbron, the touch judge who intervened after the Callard incident, that Van den Berg had been pushed on to Callard by the English forwards and lost his balance so that what followed was an accident. Which begs the question why Heilbron bothered to intervene.

'The Eastern Province Rugby Union is most unhappy with EP being branded the bad boys, the scapegoats, while England smell like roses,' Jennings said. 'We think it is all part of England's psychological warfare to intimidate both players and referees as part of the build-up to the Test match.'

Meanwhile, the name of Dean Richards was optimistically included in the unchanged England team, but the man himself is most unlikely to play. 'Dean is very dodgy; the odds are against,' Jack Rowell, the England manager, said.

Richards has made an unexpectedly slow recovery from the calf injury that caused his early departure from last Saturday's victorious first Test. If the management's expectation is fulfilled by his withdrawal today, Steve Ojomoh will come in as open-side flanker and Ben Clarke revert to his preferred place at No 8.

Further back-row difficulty is being caused by the bug that has laid Rodber low almost ever since his dismissal during the affray with Eastern Province - which was enough to make anyone sick.

Dean Ryan having punched himself out of contention with a broken thumb, Lawrence Dallaglio will take Ojomoh's bench place if necessary and win his first cap if Rodber, too, does not make it. A plan to summon John Hall, who played in both Tests when England toured here 10 years ago, from Bath was aborted when Rodber began showing signs of recovery yesterday.

It is riches indeed when the loss of as colossal a forward as Richards can be regarded with equanimity but, as Rowell contentedly pointed out, each Saturday back-row selection had been a case of perming three from four. Despite superlative form in South Africa, Ojomoh has been unlucky every time.

The attrition-rate of the Port Elizabeth game meant the selectors had to spend more time considering the bench than the team itself. Step forward John Mallett for Graham Rowntree and Stuart Barnes for Callard, though Barnes's injured groin is uncomfortably short of full recovery.

ENGLAND (v South Africa, Cape Town, tomorrow): P Hull (Bristol); T Underwood (Leicester), W Carling (Harlequins, capt), P de Glanville (Bath), R Underwood (Leicester); R Andrew (Wasps), D Morris (Orrell); J Leonard, B Moore (Harlequins), V Ubogu (Bath), M Bayfield (Northampton), N Redman (Bath), T Rodber (Northampton), D Richards (Leicester), B Clarke (Bath). Replacements: M Catt, S Barnes (Bath), S Bates (Wasps), J Mallet, G Dawe, S Ojomoh (Bath).

(Photograph omitted)

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