The New Zealand referee sent off the Stormers’ left wing in the 53rd minute of the clash, after Zas collided with Bernard Foley in the air and the Waratahs’ No 10 fell awkwardly on his neck and shoulder. Zas, though, slipped when he tried to jump for the ball, which resulted in the collision with Foley.
Zas has now been given a two-week ban, and will miss the Stormers’ next match against the Sunwolves in Singapore in two weeks’ time.
Kaplan, though, says it was clear that Zas had no deliberate intention of playing Foley in the air, and that it was only because of the slip that there was a very dangerous outcome.
“In respect to protect the catcher of the ball, I’m very much in favour of what World Rugby has tried to do here, trying to protect the man in the air,” Kaplan said.
“But in many cases on the field, we are asked to rule subjectively, we are asked to rule on intent.
“For example, you are not allowed to kick the ball out of a scrum and there is a sanction for that. But sometimes a hooker didn’t intentionally kick it out, it was just bad timing. In that case you would reset the scrum. So why are we prepared to do this in some instances and not others?
“I cannot see how you would want to penalise a player who has slipped. The consideration is the slip, and not so much the player who was taken out in the air. Accidents will happen on a rugby field.”
In the previous round of Super Rugby fixtures, Highlanders centre Jason Emery was shown a red card after a collision with Sharks fullback Willie le Roux, who also landed heavily on his neck as a result of the incident.
But Kaplan says that incident was different to Saturday’s one at Newlands, and he also believes that television pundits shouldn’t have compared the two as similar incidents.
“I’m not going to have a go at the ref, because I quite like him as a ref, I think he is a quality ref. But I don’t agree with his decision and I don’t agree with pundits who think they know the law. They are illustrating something to the public, which is not correct,” said Kaplan, who is the most experienced Test referee of all time.
“If you start penalising this type of incident, you have much more of a lottery. Then we are not looking for a referee to use common sense and judge each instance as he sees it.
“The public focus in the Jason Emery incident was that he had his eyes on the ball. That is not relevant, because he didn’t take due care in that situation, and it is covered in the law. But when someone slips, you can’t say that he didn’t take due care because he slipped.
“It’s not a yellow card, it’s either a red card or nothing. Accidents happen on the field, it’s a contact sport. Players land badly, it’s not the fault of someone who slips.”
Kaplan also mentioned that the interpretation of Zas’ incident was similar to Siya Kolisi’s yellow card against the Sharks at Newlands, earlier this season.
Incidentally Fraser was also the referee in that match, but it was the television match official, Marius Jonker, who found that Kolisi had kicked the ball out of the hands of Sharks scrumhalf Cobus Reinach when he was trying to score. Replays, though, suggested that Reinach actually placed the ball on the Springbok loose forwards leg, and that Kolisi had no intention of kicking the ball out of Reinach’s hands.
“If the ball would have landed on Siya Kolisi’s leg and not moved, in other words the guy who carried it would have retained possession of the ball, it would have been a five metre scrum, attacking ball.
“This means a different consequence for the identical action of the defender.
“What he did carries two different sanctions, depending on the ball-carrier. That is ridiculous and totally absurd. Similarly, this incident on Saturday, I don’t see how you can penalise someone for an act of God basically. It was not his intention to slip.” - Cape Times
Original source: Zas red card was wrong - Kaplan