A player who has received three yellow cards (whether on or off field, or any combination thereof) arising from matches in the same Super Rugby competition shall be required to appear before the Duty Judicial Officer appointed for the match during which he last offended.
At the same time as notification of the details of his hearing pursuant to Rule 4.1, the player shall be sent copies of the match officials’ reports in relation to each incident and be advised that the purpose of the hearing before the Duty Judicial Officer is to consider the circumstances in which each yellow card was imposed and determine whether any further penalty should be imposed on him by reason of his persistent foul play.
SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Nicholas Davidson heard the case and ruled the following:
Higginbotham received yellow cards in Round Nine (professional foul), in Round 14 (a late charge of the kicker) and in Round 18 (lifting tackle).
The final incident was regarded as more serious and for that reason, and the fact that the player had been sitting on two yellow cards and knew a judicial process would follow, a one-week suspension was imposed.
These incidents are an indication of persistent offending which after scrutiny warrant further sanction. The yellow card breaches did not result in any judicial scrutiny.
Higginbotham was appointed captain of the Rebels and is the most experienced player in the team, held in very high regard by his coach and management. He has endeavoured to lead this team by example, but has played with a degree of intensity which has overreached in his accumulation of three yellow cards.
The player has also previously received a three-week disciplinary sanction while playing at at international level in 2012.
The DJO concluded that Rule 6.1 is not prescriptive of further sanction, but for three acts of foul play including a professional foul, a sanction will usually follow unless review of each carding militates against suspension and/or the playing round is such as to warrant a caution only.
The player was suspended up to and including Friday July 11.