Wallabies and NSW Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has avoided triggering a suspended ban despite breaching a rugby law by approaching a referee during a match.
Governing body SANZAR has handed Cheika a formal warning after investigating a complaint about him approaching referee Jaco Peyper at halftime during the Waratahs’ 23-11 Super Rugby win over the Blues last month at Allianz Stadium.
It found the incident happened in the referees’ change room, in front of the other match officials, and a “short and polite exchange” took place as Cheika sought “clarification on a scrum interpretation” and Peyper supplied his answer.
“No other issues were discussed,” SANZAR said on Thursday in a statement.
“There is no evidence that the referee was influenced by the exchange in his handling of the match, nor in the circumstances has there been a breach of the SANZAR Code of Conduct and no further action will be taken.”
Both Cheika and Peyper acknowledged the exchange shouldn’t have taken place and apologised. Peyper also received a formal warning.
Cheika’s latest brush with officialdom comes 12 months after being placed on a suspended six-month ban from all forms of rugby for verbally abusing a cameraman during a Waratahs loss to the Sharks in Durban.
When found guilty last year, SANZAR’s statement said Cheika’s suspended ban would be triggered by any subsequent proven breach of the applicable code of conduct up until August 31 this year.
With Cheika found to have breached a rule but not the code of conduct, he is free to carry on coaching.
Waratahs CEO Greg Harris said Cheika hadn’t known the rule about not approaching refs during a game and the defending champions had already “moved on”.
“As far as the Waratahs are concerned, the issue has been dealt with,” Harris told Fairfax Media.
“Michael was not even aware of that ruling and would not have approached the match officials’ room if he had been aware of it.”
It is unknown who made the formal complaint against Cheika. The Blues on Thursday declined to comment.
After the game, Blues coach Sir John Kirwan claimed his side had been hammered 9-1 in the second-half penalty count, after being awarded eight penalties to the Waratahs’ one before the break.
Peyper was jeered by disgruntled Waratahs fans as he entered the dressing sheds at halftime after he spent the last five minutes of the half relentlessly re-setting scrums.
“I know at the back end of the first half, we had a lot of scrums there, so we were pressuring their line and wanted to get away with points there,” recalled Waratahs flanker Michael Hooper on Thursday.
“It didn’t happen and we went on in the second half and won the game.
“So as far as I was concerned, game over.”