The South Canterbury Rugby Union will be exhaling heavily after losing just two championship points for a breach of rules.
The word "phew" comes to mind.
South Canterbury might not have meant to break the rules in playing four loan players instead of three in three games this season, but the fact is they did.
And for that breach other teams had a legitimate right to complain, and the New Zealand Rugby Union was forced to adjudicate.
Rules are rules.
From our parochial viewpoint the outcome is terrific. Looking as good as we have for years, it would have been a shame for the season to be derailed over an administrative breach, and one possibly caused over a misunderstanding.
Different if the player concerned, winger Aporosa Tabulawaki, had scored a hatful of tries in each game, but he hasn't. He's been part of a team that has played adventurous open rugby, winning rugby as it happens. Also, the eligibility breach comes down to three days, not weeks.
And the New Zealand union seems to have taken that into consideration.
Other Heartland competition unions may not be so forgiving, and it will be interesting to see if any appeal. Like North Otago. If this had happened to South Canterbury and there was a chance we might miss out on the Meads Cup play-offs because of it, we'd view the breach far more seriously.
But any appeal would have to be backed with new evidence.
The South Canterbury union must take a close look at its processes, especially as it's been down a similar track before. All the t's have to be crossed and i's dotted, and that is its responsibility, not individual clubs. And the checking must be more than verbal.
There's sympathy here for Tabulawaki. None of this is his fault. And now he can't play unless one of the other three loan players don't.
They'll be a challenge for the team to get up today and put the past week of off-field distractions behind them. Hopefully, against the West Coast, they can. Hopefully this can still be a season to remember.
For all the right reasons.
- The Timaru Herald