The Springboks were dealt a big blow when burly lock Flip van der Merwe was banned for one week and will miss the Rugby Championship decider at Ellis Park on Saturday.
A SANZAR judicial hearing found Flip van der Merwe guilty of contravening Law 10.4(e): Dangerous Tackling, which also constituted a breach of Law 10.4 (a): Striking.
The Bok lock was cited after South Africa’s 28-8 demolition of Australia in Cape Town at the weekend.
The incident occurred in the 39th minute of the match at Newlands.
Flip van der Merwe has been suspended for one week, up to and including October 5 – the day of the Bok encounter with the All Blacks in Johannesburg.
The SANZAR judicial hearing was held via video conference on Monday.
In his finding New Zealand-based judicial officer Nicholas Davidson ruled he was guilty of both a dangerous tackle and striking an opponent.
The player was initially sin-binned for a dangerous tackle but the citing alleged a deliberate striking.
After hearing from the player’s counsel Stephan Weyers, the player and Ian Schwartz, the South African manager.
The Judicial Officer concluded that this was a breach of Law 10.4 (e), as a dangerous tackle executed high and leading with the forearm and without any attempt to grasp the player in the initial contact.
It was also a strike under Law 10.4 (a), but not intentional as cited.
Mike Mika, a former professional player, assisted the Judicial Officer.
“Van der Merwe has a good disciplinary record at international and Super Rugby level and has never before been suspended,” the judicial officer said.
“Schwartz spoke extremely well of him as a player and a personality in the game.”
Although breach was denied, the Kiwi judicial officer concluded that his record and conduct including a concerned approach to the Australian player warranted a discount to a one-week suspension only.
In the meantime, Golden Lions lock Franco van der Merwe has been recalled up to the Springbok squad.
South Africa are currently preparing for the final Rugby Championship Test – a tournament decider against the All Blacks at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The experienced Franco van der Merwe has been part of the squad for most of the competition and takes the place of the suspended Flip van der Merwe.
“Losing any player, for whatever reasons, is never ideal, but Franco knows our structures and plans very well, having been part of the squad since June last year,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
Franco van der Merwe will join the squad at their base in Johannesburg on Monday.
On the injury front, apart from the normal bumps and bruises, only JJ Engelbrecht (centre) is a slight concern at the moment.
He is nursing an injured quad muscle and will be given as much time as he needs to fully recover.