Callum Sheppard asks the question that many of us have been struggling to answer, following the sorry events in South Africa.
I’m referring to the rise of the offence of eye-gouging, a term that we are seeing far more in recent years. Once again global rugby is in the centre of debate after the actions and the sentencing of Schalk Burger. The law book states that contact with a players eyes will result in a minimum of a 12 week ban.
So why do players continue to receive less than this minimum ban?
Within the last two years we have seen roughly 13 cases of eye gouging and most of those have ended with less than the recommended ban. Why have regulations if we will not stick to them?
The most memorable incident I recall was during the 2003 world cup in a pool match between Ireland and Argentina. Reggie Corrigan felt the fingers and nails of Mauricio Reggiardo rip out his contact lens and scratch his cornea, resulting in temporary blindness.
With a moment like that so chilling and frightening we would expect an extensive ban, but instead 10 cameras only managed to capture the hand connecting with Corrigan’s face and not the fingers plunging into his eye socket, at this the situation was deemed inconclusive and the Argentine received an insignificant ban of 6 weeks.
Most recently Schalk burger ‘celebrated’ his 50th cap by connecting with Luke Fitzgerald eyes within 50 seconds of the second Lions test against South Africa, receiving an 8 week ban for his efforts after only being shown yellow for the incident. Something Coach Peter De Villiers originally stated was all part of the game. However earlier in the week he apologised for his initial comments, after vast media criticism. In my opinion, it should be far longer before Burger is able to be contest for his 51st cap.
The same weekend saw Italian captain Sergio Parisse banned for 8 weeks after contact with kiwi lock Isaac Ross. Where is the 12 week ban?
Leo Cullen will have a black spot over his Heineken cup victory as Alan Quinlan was given a 12 week ban, subsequently missing the current Lions tour, for contact with Cullen’s eye.
The IRB has announced that it will crack down on eye-gouging and is planning to introduce new regulations of ban appeals. Currently only the respective player can contest if they feel the ban is too harsh. However it is possible now the appeal should extent to the opposition and the governing body.
Whatever the IRB concludes it has to act fast to increase punishment and reduce cases of this cowardly offence. The game is put in disrepute and negative role modelling occurs as a result of these incidents. It may only be a matter of time before a career ending injury is produced from this act.