Cape Town - The SANZAAR Foul Play Review Committee has accepted a guilty plea from Sharks hooker Akker van der Merwe for contravening Law 9.12: A player must not physically abuse anyone, after he was red carded against the Bulls in Durban on Saturday.
Van der Merwe has been suspended from all forms of the game for 3 weeks, up to and including April 19, 2019.
The incident occurred in the 58th minute of the match when Van der Merwe head-butted and punched opposite number, Schalk Brits.
The SANZAAR Foul Play Review Committee of Adam Casselden SC (chairperson), Stefan Terblanche and Eroni Clarke assessed the case.
In his finding, Casselden ruled the following:
"Having conducted a detailed review of all the available evidence, including all camera angles and additional evidence, including from the player and submissions from his legal representative, Attie Heyns, the Foul Play Review Committee upheld the Red Card under Law 9.12."
"With respect to sanction the Foul Play Review Committee deemed the act of foul play merited a mid-range entry point of six weeks due to the World Rugby instructions that dictate any incident of foul play involving contact with the head must start at a mid-range level. The evidence demonstrated the player contacted the opposing player's head with multiple punches. However, taking into account mitigating factors including the player's good judicial record and the fact the player has pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity, the Foul Play Review Committee reduced the suspension to three weeks."
"The player is therefore suspended for three weeks, up to and including April 19, 2019.”
As a result, Van der Merwe will miss the Sharks next three Super Rugby matches against the Lions in Johannesburg (Friday, April 5), against the Jaguares at home (Saturday, April 13) and Reds (home, Friday, April 19).
The Sharks face a serious problem in the No 2 jersey, with Craig Burden sidelined with a bicep injury and Chiliboy Ralepelle waiting on the result of his 'B' blood doping test.
All SANZAAR disciplinary matters are in the first instance referred to the Foul Play Review Committee to provide the option of expediting the judicial process.
For a matter to be dispensed with at this hearing, the person appearing must plead guilty and accept the penalty offered by the Foul Play Review Committee.