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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Kwagga red card angers Ackermann



Emirates Lions coach Johan Ackermann called for an overhaul of the red card system after his flanker Kwagga Smith was sent off the field for colliding with Crusaders fullback David Havili in the air during the Lions' 17-25 loss in Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby final.

Ackermann said he disagreed with the card, as it was against “common sense” and physics and believed that a more suitable punishment could have been worked out after the game.

The Lions had to play for 42 minutes with 14 men against the Crusaders, who became the first side in Super Rugby history to cross the Indian Ocean to win a final outside their own country.

Ackermann said while he understood it was to the letter of the law, he disagreed with the red card.

“I made a point when Robbie Coetzee got a red card – how I feel about red cards. I don’t think 62 000 people pay to see a 15 versus 14 game – the player can get disciplined afterwards and I will stand by that, especially if it is not outside the law like a kick in the face or a punch, or dirty play,” he told journalists after the game.

“Again, I can’t say too much because one has to respect what the officials say, but one must take into account that if a player jumps in the air forward, where does he go if someone touches his legs. But I suppose the New Zealand people are happy now that Jaco Peyper is a good ref, because last week he wasn’t a good ref.”

“Rudolf Straeuli summed it up because when he (Kwagga) was man of the match four times, everyone loved him, so why would that change?

"Again it is an interpretation about physics and a law, and people – that’s my problem – a law says one thing but common sense says another thing but anyhow. He is a great player, he was tremendous for us through the whole season, we can’t judge him by one incident.

"We still respect and love him as a person. What he brings to the team off the field as well – people always say what a player brings on the field, but off the field he is a great character and great for the team, so that won’t change.”

The Lions coach, who leaves for Gloucester this coming week to take up a coaching position there, said he was disappointed with the result, but that his team would not be “defined by one match.”

“We’re very disappointed and one’s heart is sore, that’s not how we wanted to end it. But Jaco Kriel said it earlier in the week. This team will not be defined by one match and to get to a final you have to do some things right.

"This team – I love them to bits, I love each individual, the way they supported me as a coach. And although the result didn’t go our way, I asked them at halftime not to give up, to keep fighting and we did that at the end. You even got the feeling that if the game was a bit longer, we would have pulled it off, so to me that was quite satisfying, that they never gave up.

“But it is emotional because this is the last time I’m going to be in the changeroom with these guys, and I have to walk away from special people, from a special group of players, from a special management and a special union.

“It’s a tough one but that is sport hey, sport is defined by small moments and I experienced that as a player in 2007, where one or two kicks cost us to not look after the ball and Bryan Habana scored and tonight again, the players will look back at this game and say there was one or two moments that the game slipped away from us.

“The red card definitely and the first try that they scored. For the first try we did all the playing, and then we lost the ball in the ruck and they scored against the run of play.

"I think that gave them a lot of confidence and obviously there were one or two things where we had a lineout close to the tryline, and credit to them they contested it.

"Rohan Janse van Rensburg lost the ball close to the tryline and it would have brought the scorelines close, but those small little moments are what finals are all about. Getting those three, four opportunities and not using them.”

Ackermann will leave this Wednesday for Gloucester after a farewell with the side is planned.



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