An “extremely apologetic” Bundee Aki remains in South Africa after counting the cost of his red card and Connacht’s subsequent loss to the Stormers in South Africa.
Having received his third red card - the previous two when playing for Ireland - Aki has spent the week “trying to help the boys to prepare for the next game,” according to Connacht forwards coach Dewald Senekal.
The assistant coach says Aki “might have reacted wrongfully towards the ref in that moment, but he was just looking for a clear response.”
“Bundee has been extremely apologetic about it. We all know him and love him to bits for his useful energy. Bundee loves Connacht rugby. Every day he comes in and brings energy. He always wants the team to do well.
“The red card was a big 14-point swing, but unfortunately in the modern game, we know from the start of the season that it’s something World Rugby has clamped down on a lot.”
Senekal says in his day he would have got away with “a few of those”.
“Unfortunately with the new rules and how that’s being managed . . . three or four centimetres to the left and it would maybe be a different outcome, but at this stage it’s a red card.
“We would love for him to be available to us because he has a massive influence, but that’s rugby.”
As Connacht head to Pretoria to play the Bulls, with Jack Carty having also joined the tour, Dewalt says it is frustrating having being pinged for offences which Connacht knew referees would be targeting.
“Definitely want to see us having more situational intelligence. At the moment everyone is very zealous and wants to get involved, so we have to make a few more intelligent decisions around rolling away at ruck time.
“There were three penalties like that - four on defensive scrums where we felt we had an opportunity to go at them and the ref took another view of it, and there were two more penalties - one for leg pulling and one for an early hit - and then a few personal penalties. So, if each of us has one penalty in a game, it ends up being 15 which is a lot, and it is very difficult to win away from home with that.
“It is important we learn quickly. We are only in round two, but we don’t want it to get away from us. We need to take more ownership of that.”