NZRU considers options after All Black Sivivatu admits hitting wife

By Simon O'Rourke, NZPA

The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) is investigating whether to take disciplinary action against All Black Sitiveni Sivivatu after he admitted assaulting his wife.

The Chiefs winger had his name suppression lifted after pleading guilty to a charge of male assaults female in Hamilton District Court Today.

The court heard the 23-year-old slapped his wife once across the face and once on her arm at their home on March 19, 2007.

Sivivatu gave a full statement to police after his wife called them to his house.

Her lawyer, Warren Scotter, told the court that she told police the next morning she didn't want Sivivatu to be charged but police wanted to pursue the matter.

The court heard that Sivivatu was a clean living, churchgoing, non-drinker who had no previous convictions.

Police continued to pursue a conviction in court today, but Judge Phillip Connell described the injuries as minor.

He also took into account arguments from Sivivatu's lawyer, Philip Morgan, that as a Fijian passport holder a criminal record would make it more difficult for him to get visas to play in countries like Australia, the United Kingdom and South Africa.

"The critical issue is whether the court is satisfied that the direct and indirect consequences of a conviction would be out of all proportion to the offence," Judge Connell said.

Judge Connell refused to continue name suppression and said that the publicity surrounding the case was sufficient penalty.

The charge of man assaults female carries maximum sentence of two years imprisonment.

"I'm clearly sorry about what I did," Sivivatu said after his court appearance.

"I totally regret and I just want to move on and hopefully you guys (the media) will respect my privacy."

Sivivatu discharge is subject to him making a $1,000 donation to a charity and paying court costs.

It means he can still play at the Rugby World Cup in Europe later this year, unless his employers at the NZRU deem harsh disciplinary action is warranted.

NZRU deputy chief executive Steve Tew said in a statement today that the union had commenced its own misconduct process.

"Any player misconduct is a serious concern and now the legal process is complete for Sitiveni, we as the NZRU in conjunction with the Chiefs, have started our own misconduct process," said Tew who will become NZRU chief executive at the end of the year.

"The collective agreement between the NZRU and the players includes a formal process for investigating any incidents of misconduct."

Depending on the outcome of the inquiry and seriousness of the offence, penalties that could be handed down to Sivivatu could include a warning, suspension from playing rugby, a fine or termination of employment, Tew said.

"The collective agreement requires that the details of individual cases are confidential, but I can say that the union has, where appropriate, handed down fines and suspensions in the past."

In February last year Sivivatu's Chiefs and All Blacks teammate Sione Lauaki admitted assaulting a security officer in Hamilton in January 2006.

He was later offered diversion.

- NZPA

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