Baker speared for six weeks
Baker speared for six weeksSHARE
Highlanders wing Kurt Baker has been handed the biggest ban of the Super Rugby season – a six-week suspension for a spear tackle.
Baker was slapped with the suspension for his tackle on Rebels scrumhalf Nick Stirzaker during the Highlanders' 33-30 win on Dunedin last Friday.
The 25-year-old Baker, a Commonwealth Games gold medallist with New Zealand's Sevens team, drove Stirzaker away from a ruck, before lifting him and dumping him into the ground.
"I considered that the potential for harm was significant as the tackled player was lifted high off the ground and tipped quickly so that his neck made contact with the ground," SANZAR's judicial officer Nicholas Davidson said.
"The tackler has the responsibility not to place the tackled player at such risk and in this case, the player was placed in a very vulnerable position and was fortunate to not be injured."
Governing body SANZAR has in recent years doled out heavy punishments to try to rid Super Rugby of lifting tackles, also known as tip or spear tackles, that often have players land forcefully on their heads.
The dangers of the tackle were starkly illustrated in Australian Rugby League two weeks ago when Newcastle Knights forward Alex Mackinnon was left with a broken neck after being lifted and dumped in a three-man tackle.
The SANZAR judicial officer, Davidson, accepted a guilty plea from Baker for contravening Law 10.4 (j): Lifting Tackle.
Baker has been suspended from all forms of the game for six weeks, up to and including May 16.
The incident occurred in the 12th minute of the match between the Highlanders and Rebels in Dunedin.
Davidson assessed the case and in his finding Davidson ruled the following: "After reviewing the video footage and hearing from the player and his representatives, including counsel Aaron Lloyd, and obtaining their views of the incident, I proceeded on the basis required of a judicial officer that breach was established.
"The footage showed the player driving the Rebels player away from the breakdown before lifting and tipping him rapidly to the ground. I considered that the potential for harm was significant as the tackled player was lifted high off the ground and tipped quickly so that despite the Rebels' player attempt to break his fall with his arm, his neck made contact with the ground.
"The tackler has the responsibility not to place the tackled player at such risk and in this case, the player was placed in a very vulnerable position and was fortunate to not be injured.
"The incident was found to have an entry point in the mid-range, which starts at eight weeks. I then added two weeks as a deterrent for this type of tackle as it has been widely acknowledged that this type of action can not be tolerated in the game due to the risk to players.
"This was acknowledged by the player and by Highlanders management.
"Based on acceptance of the indicated sanction, and the player's excellent disciplinary and playing record, a discount was given to bring the suspension to six weeks. The player is suspended up to and including Friday May 16."
Nature of Offence: Law 10.4 (j) – Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player's feet are still off the ground such that the player's head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.