Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Hansen's frustrations show after 'cheap shot'

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw is pulled up from an altercation during a maul during the match between the Wallabies and the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw is pulled up from an altercation during a maul during the match between the Wallabies and the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is putting his faith in the judicial system to punish Scott Higginbotham after yet another attack on Richie McCaw's head - an act he described as a "cheap shot".

Wallabies flanker Higginbotham first kneed McCaw in the face and then headbutted him as the pair wrestled after a ruck in the first half of the 18-18 Bledisloe Cup draw in Brisbane last night.

An initial hearing will be conducted by duty judicial officer Jannie Lubbe tomorrow via a conference call, with a time for the hearing yet to be confirmed. It is likely that Higginbotham, who was cited for both incidents, will receive a suspension of several weeks which will put his prospects of touring Europe with Australia at the end of the year in doubt.

It was the latest in a series of attacks on McCaw, who was pole-axed by a forearm to the face by Springboks prop Dean Greyling in the Rugby Championship match in Dunedin five weeks ago.

Suncorp Stadium was also the scene of Quade Cooper's knee to McCaw's head just before last year's World Cup which turned the majority of the New Zealand public against the Tokoroa-born first-five and which added to his problems during a miserable tournament for him and his adopted country. Cooper was cited but not punished for his actions.

Higginbotham's coach Robbie Deans told media after last night's test that he was "taking notes" and didn't see the two incidents, but his opposite Hansen was in no doubt as to what transpired.

"I saw the headbutt. It was another cheap shot," Hansen said. "He [McCaw] seems to get them every week but everyone seems to miss them.

"You people [New Zealand media] see it week-in, week-out. If you don't think it's right, then write it, or say it on TV. We saw it, it was a cheap shot and we hope the judicial people can sort it out."

McCaw tends to treat such incidents as coming with the territory but gave an indication as to his growing frustration when saying: "It annoyed me at the time but it will get dealt with I guess. It gets a bit frustrating at times. It's a bit annoying."

No match officials saw the latest attacks on McCaw but the agitation among the New Zealand fans among the crowd of 51,000 as they saw replays on the big screen could be clearly heard on television coverage.

Higginbotham should get a ban of at least two weeks if precedents are anything to go by. Springboks lock Eben Etzebeth was suspended for a fortnight for the merest suggestion of a headbutt on Wallabies counterpart Nathan Sharpe in Perth recently and the use of the head is seen as an aggravating factor.

Greyling was suspended for two weeks - but only one Rugby Championship match - for his flying attack on McCaw in Dunedin.


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