Rugby: Assistant ref complained about Stormers sideline conduct

By Daniel Richardson, Patrick McKendry

Sanzar is investigating an allegation of match day misconduct against the Stormers and their team management during their match against the Hurricanes on April 26. Photo / Getty Images.
Sanzar is investigating an allegation of match day misconduct against the Stormers and their team management during their match against the Hurricanes on April 26. Photo / Getty Images.

A complaint by assistant referee Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri over sideline abuse from the Stormers could be costly for the South African franchise.

It is alleged that New Zealander Eden-Whaitiri suffered persistent verbal abuse by either a player or member of the Stormers' sideline staff in the 18-16 victory by the Cape Town-based team at Palmerston North's FMG Stadium on April 26.

It is understood that the case will be heard tomorrow night in Sydney after apparently being put back 24 hours.

3News reported tonight that Eden-Whaitiri had accused the Stormers of calling him a cheat and subjected him to constant abuse including suggestions he should "go back to club rugby".

In a statement, Sanzar said an investigation of the Stormers' "match day misconduct" was under way and no further comment would be made.

Chief executive Greg Peters declined to expand on the issue and couldn't offer any comment when contacted.

It is understood the Stormers know who is responsible for the alleged abuse. 3News added that Sanzar did not want Eden-Whaitiri to officiate on the sideline at the Blues vs Stormers match at North Harbour Stadium last Friday night which was won 18-17 by the home team, but that his New Zealand rugby bosses insisted he did.

The network said before the North Harbour Stadium match that referee Glenn Jackson had told the Stormers no abuse would be tolerated and Stormers skipper Jean de Villiers apologised to Eden-Whaitiri for the team's behaviour a week earlier.

The Palmerston North match was an often stormy affair in which the Stormers came from behind to win, with wing Bryan Habana's charge down of an attempted conversion by Beauden Barrett just before halftime proving crucial.

Hurricanes lock Jeremy Thrush was sent to the sinbin for a professional foul by referee Steve Walsh and prop Ben Franks was probably lucky not to join him following a series of penalties.

Cases of misconduct are often brought against players, but almost never against a team, which suggests Sanzar could take a firm line in order to prevent similar issues occurring.

It is understood that most top officials receive varying degrees of abuse during matches but that this was on a different scale.

The sanction could be anything from a written apology, to a fine or loss of competition points.

The latter would be extremely damaging to the Stormers' chances of making the playoffs.

Apart from their excellent win over the Hurricanes, the team coached by Allister Coetzee have struggled this season despite a tight defence and are in 10th place in the overall standings and fourth in the South African conference.

The Hurricanes, 11th overall and fourth in the New Zealand conference, are in South Africa preparing for a match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein this weekend and had nothing to do with the complaint.

A spokeswoman said today that the franchise had little knowledge of any issues from the game.

Matt Peters, who was the sideline manager at the game, said he couldn't comment as it could hinder the integrity of the investigation.

During the match the Stormers' coaching staff were extremely vocal in their box.

- APNZ

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