Buller in talks on Heartland player row
The Buller Rugby Union is in discussions with the New Zealand Rugby Union over the player eligibility row in which South Canterbury has been docked only two Heartland Championship points.
Buller chairman Erik Westergaard said he was waiting for a call from NZRU chief executive Steve Tew to discuss the matter, focusing on the penalty handed out by the union's panel and the rationale behind it. "I want to have a chat to him about the process that was followed."
Buller had complained that South Canterbury fielded four loan players rather than the three allowed under the rules, in three games, and is set to appeal the decision.
Their original complaint was held up by the NZRU panel and South Canterbury were penalised two points and fined $4500.
Buller is unhappy about the apparent inconsistencies in penalties in terms of points deductions in the Heartland Championship.
Westergaard said most of the 12 Heartland unions backed their stance.
The docking of the two points rather than the 10 points earned in the three games has angered many unions.
"A few years back Buller fielded an ineligible player and lost all their points from that game."
Westergaard said the fact the NZRU had not yet released the full decision added to the confusion.
"Getting access to that will be useful in terms of where we go over this. What the Heartland competition needs is some certainty about rule transgressions and how they are dealt with transparently."
Westergaard said it was not about South Canterbury, but the about the process.
"We are not pointing the finger. They are not the first to be caught and they won't be the last, but we need something that everyone can live with in a process that can work."
North Otago chief executive Colin Jackson said they were not part of the appeal or joining it.
"The NZRU have made their decision and we have moved on."
The breaches occurred after Fijian wing Aporosa Tabulawaki was incorrectly categorised as a local player when he arrived in New Zealand on June 3, after the June 1 qualification fdate.
The Herald understands they were undone by the fact one of Buller's loan players arrived on the same plane as Tabulawaki, who was not shown in the match day programme as a loan player.
South Canterbury chairman Brent Isbister has stated the problem is that the SCRU did not check the player's inbound date (passport or air ticket) and Tabulawaki himself is clear of any blame.
The Herald understands their defence was the fact he only missed the cut-off date by two days and that the offending was at the lower end of the scale.
Isbister said there was no problem with the date Tabulawaki arrived when it came to the local Hamersley Cup senior competition because the rules were different and paperwork was done in time.
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