Sharks deny Butch punch

Linston Manuels is back in the news after he flagged Butch James for an alleged punch against Western Province on Saturday.

The touch judge, who was the centre of a massive controversy in the Super 14 when he disallowed a perfectly good try by Akona Ndungane, raised his flag as AJ Venter scored a try for the Sharks in the left-hand corner. However, according to Manuels, James had thrown a punch earlier in the movement. The Sharks No 10 was sent to the sin bin and Province awarded a penalty.

Fortunately for the Sharks, it didn’t cost them the game as James returned to play a part in Danie Saayman’s match-winning try.

“It was apparently a punch, which it wasn’t,” said Sharks coach Dick Muir at the press conference. “The player said he didn’t punch. I trust my player.

“I just think Butch is an incredible competitor. He plays it hard and fair and he’s not the type of guy who will intentionally high tackle or punch. He just gets himself into awkward positions sometimes.”

Manuels, however, told the Cape Times that James had thrown a punch at WP fullback Gio Aplon.

“I walked up to seperate them,” he said. “Butch punched him in the face as they got up. That’s why I gave Jonathan [Kaplan] the call of foul play. I saw it clearly. Why would I flag and give the call if I didn’t see it?”