Sanzar bosses refused to answer questions last night on whether they have covered up an incident that saw Waratahs coach Michael Cheika break the rules by entering the referees room at halftime during the match against the Blues.
The Herald has been told that the Blues, Waratahs and Sanzar are aware that Cheika, who is also the Wallabies' coach, spoke to match official Jaco Peyper during the break of the week-six clash in Sydney.
Neither the nature nor the content of that discussion have been disclosed but it is a breach of Sanzar's code of conduct for any coach or player to enter the match officials' room before, during or after the game.
The Sydney Morning Herald today reported that Cheika has been issued a warning for his behaviour by Super Rugby administrators.
"As far as the Waratahs are concerned the issue has been dealt with and we've moved on," Waratahs chief executive Greg Harris said. "Michael was not even aware of that ruling and would not have approached the match officials' room if he had been aware of it."
The penalty count at the end of the first half was eight-one in favour of the Blues when the two sides clashed on March 28. The second-half penalty count was nine-one in favour of the Waratahs.
The Blues are understood to have been suspicious about the massive difference in interpretation and application of the laws they encountered in the second half and shortly after the game they learned of the Cheika incident.
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan is thought to be conscious that because his side lost in Sydney - their sixth straight defeat - it would be better to stay quiet as he was fearful any public complaint would be construed as excuse-making from the tournament's bottom-placed side.
But while the Blues have kept the incident in-house, other key figures in the New Zealand game learned of what took place in Sydney and have been dismayed.
Cheika was last year given a suspended sentence by Sanzar after he was found guilty of verbally abusing a cameraman. The incident took place in Durban on March 29 and the Sanzar release that was issued after the judicial hearing stated: "The judicial officer suspended Mr Cheika from involvement of any kind in all forms of rugby at any level for a period of six months, suspended until August 31, 2015," a ban that would be triggered by a subsequent proven breach of the code of conduct.
Nigel Hampton, QC, who heard the case last year, also said: "I do not regard Mr Cheika to be a first-time offender and it would be farcical to disregard other matters over the past nine years, including proven misconduct allegations from his time as a professional coach in Europe and a warning from Sanzar during the 2013 Super Rugby season.
"This matter bears a number of striking similarities with past instances, particularly the use of foul and abusive language towards those charged with running a match ..."
The Herald made several attempts to talk with Sanzar chief executive Greg Peters and game manager Lyndon Bray, but neither returned calls.
Tirade led to Umaga ban
Counties coach Tana Umaga verbally abused match official Glen Jackson in the ITM Cup last year as the two walked down the tunnel. Umaga then pushed into the referee's room and the former All Black captain was suspended for two games.
England hooker Dylan Hartley was banned for 11 weeks when he was guilty of verbally abusing a referee in a 2013 club game.
The Stormers were fined $30,000 last year after a handful of players were found guilty of making offensive comments to a match official in New Zealand.