Rugby: Smith defending dangerous tackle charge

Aaron Smith could be set for a spell on the sidelines but the Highlanders are not demanding the same fate for referee Chris Pollock.

Smith will face the judiciary in Wellington today and defend a dangerous tackle charge.

The Highlanders halfback was yellow-carded for the incident late in Friday night's 15-10 loss to the Blues at Carisbrook.

He was sinbinned for the role he played in a tackle on Blues and former Otago halfback Tony Morland.

Smith will be accompanied on his first visit to the Sanzar judiciary by Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph and a lawyer.

"They'll put up a case and I guess we'll see what happens," assistant coach Simon Culhane said yesterday.

"I think there was a similar sort of incident the week before with James Slipper, the Queensland guy, and he was cleared.

"Aaron's just a little fellow and he hasn't got too many angry bones in his body. I think he's got a completely clean slate, too, so hopefully that will help."

Smith's sinbinning seemed reasonable punishment for a tackle that left Morland hitting the ground on his neck.

But there were vigorous grumbles from supporters and television viewers and commentators about the performance of Pollock, whose inconsistent rulings - particularly at the breakdown - appeared to punish the Highlanders.

The home side was also battered in the penalty count.

The Highlanders would file their report on the referee today, as usual, Culhane said.

"We have to be careful what we say because there's an opportunity we could get Chris again.

"He's one of the top referees in the country. But sometimes it comes down to interpretation.

"I guess a disappointing thing is we got hit hard by the referee and we didn't react.

"That made it tough, especially losing two men for 20 minutes.

"We didn't adapt to his rulings and that was frustrating."

Culhane said there were no new injuries to report from Friday's game.

Veteran first five Tony Brown, who limped off in the first half, had damaged the top of his hamstring and was likely to be out for two weeks.

"It might be an age thing, I guess," Culhane joked.

With Brown joining Colin Slade (broken jaw) on the sidelines and Lima Sopoaga on New Zealand Under-20 duty, the Highlanders' only first five option is Robbie Robinson.

There is no No 10 in the wider squad and few other options around the country, so the Highlanders can either reach out to an Otago player such as Glenn Dickson or put all their faith in Robinson.

"We've got Robbie floating around but this will certainly test our depth, that's for sure," Culhane said.

"We're not panicking and we don't plan to call in anyone else. We'll see how Browny develops and if it's long-term, we may look at something."

Culhane said there was no danger the Highlanders would let the frustrating loss to the Blues affect them, with clashes against the Chiefs (Hamilton) and the Hurricanes (Invercargill) approaching.

"We're confident we can get the boys back on track. The Blues are a quality side. As long as we get over the frustration that we let the game get away, we'll be fine."


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