In what can surely only be described as a moment of madness Gloucester’s loose head prop Nick Wood looked down lifted his right leg and brought it down on former Bulls flanker Jacques Burger’s head as he lay prone at the bottom of a ruck. This meant Wood’s participation in Gloucester’s Premiership match away to Saracens on Saturday ended within a minute and a half of it starting as the referee quite rightly brandished the red card.
However, the rugged Namibian was able to continue to playing the match making several telling contributions for Saracens. Furthermore, Burger seems to be harbouring no hard feelings towards Wood and even more remarkable seems to be rooting for leniency during the disciplinary process.
Burger told the Daily Mail, “He came up to me and felt very bad about what he did, there are no hard feelings. I wasn’t upset at all, it was one of those things. You do it and straight away think ‘why did I do that – that was so stupid’. My jaw’s a bit sore but the cut on my head wasn’t too bad. I think the stud cut it open a little but I didn’t come off too badly. I don’t know him very well but, from what I’ve heard, he’s not a cheap-shot kind of guy. Unfortunately for him I think he’s still going to have to deal with the citing commissioners but I hope he doesn’t come off too hard.”
Woods’ disciplinary hearing is scheduled for today (Wednesday). My initial reaction to this is that the player should get a hefty ban and should be made to sit out for at least the next three months for his thuggish behaviour especially as the incident took place 73 seconds into the game and from what I could see looked totally unprovoked.
However, some proponents of the old fashioned rough and tumble nature of rugby may point out that Burgers head may have been at the wrong side of the ruck, but I do not subscribe to this way of thinking and from viewing the incident think that is how he fell with his momentum carrying him through on joining the ruck. Burger looked to be completely defenceless unable to bring his arms up to cover his head, even if he had saw the stamp coming.
From what I can gather a three month ban is near the top end of bans that would be handed out for this kind of offence. The apparent good nature of Wood has been highlighted and it doesn’t seem as if he has received a red card before, in ten years of playing professional rugby. Taking these things into consideration as well as what I feel is a soft handed approach by the authorities, as evidenced by the one match ban handed out to Western Province’s Michael Rhodes yesterday, it would be a surprise to see Wood being banned from the game for more than say six weeks to two months. This would be too lenient for my liking but would be interested to hear other views.