Prop Kyle Sinckler faces a possible three-month ban after being landed a shock biting charge against Springbok second row Franco Mostert.
It was expected that the citing commissioner, Scott Nowland, would have a busy caseload from the Lions’ 27-9 second Test defeat to the Springboks with Maro Itoje, Stuart Hogg, Mako Vunipola, Cheslin Kolbe and Faf de Klerk all seemingly at risk of facing retrospective disciplinary action.
Instead it was only Sinckler, who has a chequered disciplinary history, who will face a video conference before an independent judicial committee on Tuesday night. Under World Rugby law 10.4, biting carries a lower-end charge of 12 weeks with a maximum sanction of 208 weeks, meaning Sinckler could also miss England’s autumn international matches.
The incident occurred in the 64th minute at the bottom of a ruck when Sinckler had been on as a replacement for nine minutes. Springbok prop Vincent Koch carries the ball into a ruck where Mostert, the former Gloucester second row, comes into contact with Sinckler. Afterwards Mostert is seen getting up from the ruck and examining his forearm. At the next stoppage in play, the referee Ben O’Keeffe is heard telling Siya Kolisi, the South Africa captain: “Siya, I understand what Franco [Mostert] said but I can’t do anything about that right now. If there is anything, it will be dealt with after the game if we need to… yes, we will.”
Sinckler is unlikely to receive full mitigation if he is found guilty of the offence given he has a poor disciplinary record. The Harlequins prop accepted a seven-week ban for eye gouging Northampton’s Michael Paterson in 2017, which forced him out of that year’s autumn internationals. He was also banned at the start of this year for two weeks after swearing at referee Karl Dickson during Bristol’s Premiership win over Exeter.
The Lions have no plans to call in a replacement tighthead for the third Test, meaning Zander Ferguson is likely to be the backup to starter Tadhg Furlong. There will be relief on both sides that Nowland’s attention did not stray elsewhere.
There were strong cases that Springbok winger Kolbe should have been sent off rather than sin-binned for upending Conor Murray in the air while De Klerk was similarly lucky to escape sanction for an apparent high tackle on Murray. Meanwhile, footage on social media showed Itoje apparently resting his knee on Damian de Allende and Mako Vunipola appearing to make contact with the head of Eben Etzebeth.
Full-back Hogg was also under suspicion after further stills and videos suggested he may have bit his opposite number, Willie le Roux. However, the Scotland captain issued a vehement denial to those allegations. “Following speculation that has surfaced online, I would like to categorically deny any foul play in last night’s game,” Hogg said. “I would never bite an opponent and I am annoyed and upset by this unsubstantiated accusation. I’ve always been proud of playing rugby in the spirit of the game.”
“Respect to the Springboks for their deserved win yesterday. The squad is hurting after last night’s defeat, but it’s all to play for next week. It’s going to be a cup final and everyone’s going to be up for it. There has been a lot said about a wounded Springbok, but I think the Lions have taken a dent today and we need to put it right.”