Wallaby Rob Horne and Springbok Francois Steyn are both facing possible suspensions following the NSW Waratahs’ spiteful 32-10 Super Rugby loss to the ladder-leading Sharks in Durban.
Horne has been charged by the citing commissioner with striking after setting the tone for the fiery encounter when he caught Steyn high with a swinging arm in the 16th minute, initially escaping with just a warning from referee Mike Fraser.
Steyn is charged with a dangerous tackle after backslamming Waratahs centre Kurtley Beale eight minutes later, forcing him off the field for a short time for a concussion test.
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika was left mystified by a match-turning decision by Fraser to sin-bin Tahs captain Dave Dennis for a push at a scrum in the 48th minute of a match featuring plenty of niggle.
The Sharks took immediate advantage of the extra man to score through hooker Bismarck du Plessis and put the match virtually out of reach at 19-3.
Cheika was struggling to explain how his team ended up on the end of a 22-8 penalty count – and were punished so heavily in the scrum – when asked if Fraser failed to keep a lid on rising tensions.
“With everything that went on we had a player sent to the sin-bin for pushing. You can make what you want of that,” Cheika told AAP.
“It’s obvious. You can’t give away 22 penalties and win a game away from home. It’s impossible.”
Cheika acknowledged his side’s inability to build pressure as well as two missed penalty kicks in the first half, also cost them any chance of pulling off a major scalp on the road and returning to the top of the Australian Conference.
Israel Folau’s absence at the back was telling as the Waratahs failed to make the most of some prime first half chances, but Cheika is confident the star fullback will recover from a throat injury in time to lead NSW into battle against the Stormers in Cape Town next week.
During the match, Sharks skipper du Plessis asked the referees to watch for Waratahs players punching in the tackle, while NSW’s South African-born lock Jacques Potgieter was warned for the manner in which he was cannoning into the ruck.
In the end it was the slightest push from Dennis to Jannie du Plessis at a scrum which brought about the first and only yellow card – even though the Sharks prop retaliated with an even firmer shove.
With Dennis off the field, Cheika stormed down from his box to the sideline to deliver a direct message to defensive coach Nathan Grey, but denied claims made in television commentary that he also exchanged words with the assistant referees.
Cheika gave full marks to his side for their intensity but said the Waratahs must get better at delivering under pressure.
“When the level goes up we’ve got to make sure we bring our accuracy as well as our intensity,” he said.
“It’s just a learning curve for us.”
Bernard Foley scored a late consolation try, while Tatafu Polota-Nau left the field early with a neck problem, but should be fine to take on the Stormers.