Three are suspended after brawl

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The Independent Online
South Africa 20

Canada 0

Gareth Rees and Rod Snow of Canada were yesterday suspended for 30 days for punching during the notorious battle at Boet Erasmus between South Africa and Canada on Saturday night.

James Dalton, the Springboks hooker, also got 30 days for fighting. Two other players, Scott Stewart of Canada and Peiter Hendriks, the Springbox wing, were cited, Stewart for being the originator of the incident and Hendriks for kicking. Both players could also be banned from the tournament.

A statement issued last night said: "The Rugby World Cup directors believe that the violence at Boet Erasmus stadium has brought the game into disrepute, and in view of the gravity of the incidents and after viewing the videotape of the game they decided to cite Stewart and Hendriks."

The suspensions were imposed on Dalton, Rees and Snow at a disciplinary hearing. All three had been sent off by the Irish referee David McHugh after a mass brawl developed in the second half.

The South African Rugby Football union has appealed against the suspension of Dalton, and Ray Williams of Wales will act as commissioner.

Dalton's guilt is by no means cut and dried, Hennie le Roux's and Pieter Hendriks's is not in doubt. In the melee that broke out, these two clearly played a major role, though Scott Stewart, the Canadian full-back, was the chief villain. Any number of players could have been sent off, but it was two Canadians, Rod Snow and the captain Gareth Rees, who joined Dalton.

Afterwards, the Canadian management said they would be studying the video and talked of the possibility of citing some of the South African players. Le Roux and Hendriks will have been mightily relieved that yesterday morning the Canadians decided against this course of action as the World Cup could well have been over for them.

Late into Saturday night, they were in the tapas bar which they have made their unofficial headquarters, partying and giving no indication that anything could ruin their send-off. Earlier, Rees had emphasised how proud he was of the team who had come back valiantly from a 73-7 defeat by New Zealand a few weeks earlier and he said that he did not regret coming to their assistance in the fight. "We're a very tight team," he said. "The guys love each other."

Francois Pienaar, the Springbok captain, made similar noises. "If referees don't look after your team-mates, then you must look after your team-mate," he said, before getting the Free James Dalton campaign underway. "He never threw a punch. He's innocent and I'm sure he'll get off."

Kitch Christie, the South African coach, was keen to emphasise the innocence of his whole side. "You have to blame the third guy who came into the tussle," he said, referring to Scott Stewart, who threw a punch at the back of Hendricks' head. "It was he who started the whole incident. The television replays will show that we did not start the fight."

Pienaar admitted that his team were "a bit scared and shaken" afterwards. And, quite frankly, who could blame them? Hannes Strydom, their enormous lock, left the field with blood pouring from his face and earlier on they had also lost Gavin Johnson and Joel Stransky.

All three had recovered yesterday, which is perhaps not the medical report the Springbok management would have wanted given that Chester Williams also reported fully fit yesterday, having successfully come through a club match the day before.

Dalton's situation is no good to the many who want Williams, the much- admired black wing, back in the South African line-up, though. If Dalton's appeal fails, it would be madness not to replace him with another hooker and, indeed, Maka Drotske of the Orange Free State is already on stand- by.

For the 70 minutes that he was on the field on Saturday, Dalton's line- out throwing - which is an acknowledged weakness - was much improved. This allowed South Africa total dominance in the line-out, forcing Canada to run almost everything and, when he did elect to kick, Rees purposefully kept the ball just inside the touchlines.

It was set-piece superiority which won South Africa the match and confirmed their place in the quarter-final stage.

Their victory was sewn up with two first-half tries, seven minutes apart, both of them touched down by Adriaan Richter, the No 8, from push-over tries. Richter now has four tries from two games, but he could have scored another four and still no one would have talked about it.

Which is a shame; there has already been plenty to make this World Cup and, until Saturday night, very little to mar it.

CANADA: S Stewart (Univ of BCOB); W Stanley (Univ of BC), C Stewart (Westesn Province), S Gray (Kats), D Lougheed (Toronto Welsh); G Rees (capt, Newport), J Graf; E Evans (both Univ of BCOB), M Cardinal (James Bay), R Snow (Dofs), A Charron (Ottawa Irish), G Ennis (Kats), G MacKinnon (Britannia Lions), I Girdon (James Bay), C McKenzie (Univ of BCOB). Replacement: Paul LeBlanc (Kats) for McKenzie, 80.

SOUTH AFRICA: A Joubert (Natal); G Johnson, C Scholtz (both Transvaal), B Venter (Free State), P Hendriks (Transvaal); J Stransky (W Province), J Roux (Transvaal); G Pagel (W Province), J Dalton (Transvaal), M Hurter (N Transvaa|), K Wiese, H Strydom, F Pienaar (all Transvaal), R Brink (W Province), A Richter (N Transvaal). Replacements: J van der Westhuizen (N Transvaal) for Johnson, 20; H le Roux (Transvaal) for Stransky, 60; K Otto (N Transvaal) for Strydom, 72.

Referee: D McHugh (Ireland).