The Stormers’ woes continue as centre Ruhan Nel has been cited for his tackle on Connacht flyhalf Conor Fitzgerald on Saturday.
Nel was handed one of two yellow cards shown to the Stormers in a 19-17 reverse at Galway as referee Ben Blain determined the centre’s hit on Fitzgerald in the fourth quarter was dangerous because it made head contact, though it was mitigated by Fitzgerald’s “drop in height”.
Irish citing commissioner Ed Kenny disagreed with Blain stating in his report that there was “no sudden/significant drop in height” from Fitzgerald.
“After [Fitzgerald] has passed the ball, [Nel] executes an upright and dominant tackle. [Nel] turns his head significantly to his left which makes his right shoulder prominent and he leads into the contact with his right shoulder. The right shoulder makes initial contact to the upper chest and left shoulder of [Fitzgerald] before making contact to the jaw area.
“I believe that this was an act of foul play which was the fault of [Nel] and avoidable. [Fitzgerald] is in an upright position at the time of the tackle from [Nel]. The contact from the right shoulder of [Nel] to the jaw area of [Fitzgerald] is with sufficient force to lead to a high degree of danger. There is head contact, an act of foul play from [Nel] and a high degree of danger.
“There is no change in direction from [Fitzgerald] and no sudden/significant drop in height.
“Following the game, [Fitzgerald] stated he felt contact around his shoulders and low jaw. [Fitzgerald] left the field for a HIA. He passed the HIA but he did not return to play a further part in the game. I believe the actions of [Nel] meet the red card threshold and I therefore cite [Nel] under Law 9.13 for a dangerous tackle on [Fitzgerald].”
As can be seen from the following screenshots, Fitzgerald’s height clearly changes pre-contact.
The footage also shows that Nel’s shoulder does not “ride up” into the head, as stated by Blain, but rather that Fitzgerald’s head whiplashes forward after impact to connect with Nel.
The Stormers, now four points behind sixth-placed Connacht, have expressed their frustration with Blain’s officiating after yellow cards to Nel and Sergeal Petersen in the second half allowed Connacht to overcome a 17-7 deficit.
After this week’s bye, the Stormers are set to host Zebre, Cardiff, Ulster and Ospreys in quick succession.