Semifinal chances seem lost in rule breach
The South Canterbury rugby team's chances of appearing in the top tier Meads Cup semifinal look to be sunk.
Two sources confirmed to the Herald yesterday that the player at the centre of the New Zealand Rugby Union's investigation arrived in the country on June 2, a day after the cutoff to be considered a local player under the Heartland Championships rules.
That means South Canterbury has fielded four loan players at one time rather than the three allowed.
This has happened on three occasions and twice South Canterbury have won, scoring four competition points and also gaining a four-try bonus point on each occasion.
The NZRU will have little choice but to dock the 10 championships points unless the South Canterbury Rugby Union comes up with a palatable excuse for the what appears to be a back room blunder by not simply checking Fijian wing Aporosa Tabulawaki's passport.
The NZRU have stated they hope to have a resolution before the weekend and have likely received South Canterbury's explanation yesterday.
Local supporters may see it as an administrative error.
However, it is unlikely to be seen that way by competing Heartland unions.
With the top of the table so congested, a loss of 10 points would relegate South Canterbury to the second tier Lochore Cup.
The tough thing is South Canterbury looked good enough to lift the top tier Meads Cup for the first time.
The top four sides at the end of the eight game round-robin play off for the Meads Cup and the next four play for the Lochore Cup.
If the NZRU reverses the points, North Otago will be back into Meads Cup contention and Thames Valley will have an outside chance.
In 2010, West Coast were fined $2500 and stripped of their competition points for breaching the eligibility regulations in the game the player was involved in.
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