Brendan Venter punished for latest slur

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The Independent Online

Saracens director of rugby Brendan Venter will end 2010 in the same manner in which he started it - reflecting on his punishment for comments to the media about the performance of a referee.

In January, the South African was handed a suspended coaching ban and asked to apologise to referee David Rose over critical remarks he had made to reporters following a Premiership defeat against Leicester the previous month.

This time the punishment will see the former Springbok centre out of pocket to the tune of £8,750 after he was yesterday handed a hefty fine as a charge of misconduct was upheld over comments he made in the wake of the club's Heineken Cup defeat against Leicester at Wembley on October 16.

The fine totalled £21,850, but £13,100 was suspended until June 30 2012 and will only need to be paid if Venter is found guilty of a further act of misconduct during a European tournament.

The 40-year-old had been furious following last month's loss and was mystified as to why French referee Christophe Berdos had not sin-binned a Leinster player during a period of persistent infringements by the Irish province at the breakdown.

His frustration prompted Venter to suggest that rugby would "die" unless problems over the new law interpretations at the ruck were addressed.

He told reporters after the match: "Before the Heineken Cup began, I asked if we would have a conference so all the officials from abroad were in tune as to the new interpretations of the laws.

"Instead, we got some European referees in the Premiership, but there is a real danger that if we don't take action going into a World Cup year, the game of rugby is going to die, be killed stone dead because the public won't come to watch.

"We will end up playing one type of rugby in the league, another in Europe and when you get to the World Cup, wait and see which referee you get.

"Last season we won 10 games in a row playing a kicking game, a horrible game to watch, but necessary because the breakdown regulations favoured defending teams.

"I may consider returning to that in Europe because there is no system in place to complain about these problems, and that makes it a flawed competition."

European Rugby Cup, who run the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup, took a dim view of his remarks and found him guilty of misconduct due to being "inappropriately critical of ERC, the tournament, the match officials and the sport of rugby union".

This latest ruling completes a hat-trick of misdemeanours by Venter during the calendar year.

Towards the end of last season he also received a 14-week ban, later reduced to 10 weeks on appeal, by the Rugby Football Union for "making provocative and inappropriate gestures" during a match at Leicester on May 8.

That penalty meant he was not allowed to be at Twickenham when Sarries lost to Leicester in their first Premiership final.