Kyle Sinckler is facing the prospect of a lengthy ban after he was cited for an alleged bite on South Africa’s Franco Mostert during the British & Irish Lions’ second Test defeat by the Springboks but several other controversial incidents have been overlooked.
Sinckler was the only player cited from an ill-tempered second Test – won 27-9 by South Africa – over an incident in the 64th minute. He will face a disciplinary panel on Tuesday and if found guilty he will miss the decider on Saturday and face a minimum suspension of 12 weeks. The maximum is four years.
A number of other incidents have not been deemed to warrant citings, including a fracas between Stuart Hogg and Willie le Roux with the Lions full‑back facing accusations of biting, Maro Itoje kneeling on the chest and neck area of Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe taking Conor Murray out in the air and a no-arms tackle from Faf de Klerk on the scrum‑half. It is understood the Lions did not refer any incidents to the citing commissioner, Scott Nowland. Rassie Erasmus, meanwhile, remains under investigation by World Rugby for his extraordinary rant about perceived injustices from officials last week.
Sinckler’s citing compounds the Lions’ problems after their failure to wrap up the series on Saturday and it is the latest twist in a dramatic past few months for the England prop. Sinckler was the shock omission when Warren Gatland named his initial squad in May but earned a reprieve after showing fine form for Bristol before Andrew Porter was ruled out through injury.
In footage of the alleged incident, Sinckler can be seen at the bottom of a ruck with Mostert on top of him. When the ball is finally kicked clear by the South Africa scrum-half Herschel Jantjies, Mostert emerges clutching his forearm. Soon afterwards, O’Keeffe can be heard saying to the South Africa captain, Siya Kolisi: “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.”
Losing Sinckler for the decider on Saturday would be a blow for the Lions given he has come off the bench in both Tests so far as well as all three of the previous tour of New Zealand in 2017. That tour ended in ignominy for the 28-year-old prop after he was arrested following a night out after the third Test. In January Sinckler was banned for two weeks for swearing at a referee and in 2017 he was suspended for seven weeks for an eye-gouge. His previous record means he will be shown little leniency if found guilty.
Earlier on Sunday, Hogg staunchly protested his innocence in the face of accusations of biting Le Roux. “Following speculation that has surfaced online, I would like to categorically deny any foul play in last night’s game,” Hogg’s statement read. “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.”
Alun Wyn Jones expects Gatland to ring the changes for the deciding Test, revealing players are fearing for their places. The Lions have failed to win a series on only two occasions having won the first Test but this is the first decider between South Africa and the touring side since 1955.
The Springboks will go into the third Test as favourites following their emphatic win and Gatland is likely to freshen up his team. In 2013 the Lions won the first Test against Australia, lost the second and Gatland made six changes for the decider including leaving Brian O’Driscoll out of the squad. It was a decision that paid off – the Lions won 41-16 in Sydney. Jones, who was captain that day, is poised to play in his third Lions decider on Saturday, having been part of the side that drew the third Test, and the series, against New Zealand four years later.
He said: “We have got to get up and stay together. It’s still a squad effort. Gats is notorious for making changes and we go again. There has been a lot said about a wounded Springbok, but I think the Lions have taken a dent and we need to put it right. There was a lot of eye contact and you could feel the fact that everyone is well aware that Gats will make changes. There will probably be an opportunity for some and I have a feeling that people want to put it right. I could definitely feel that. This week is going to be a big week, it will be interesting to see what Gats does with the team. But definitely it’s going to be a big week.”
The Lions’ task is set to become all the more difficult after South Africa were handed a boost with the return to the squad of the No 8 Duane Vermeulen. The 35-year-old sustained an ankle injury in June.