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Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira

Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira

The Cell C Sharks will end their 4 match tour of New Zealand and Australia on Friday when they take on the Reds at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane with singular purpose in mind.

Both sides have not enjoyed the kinds of seasons their players, coaches and supporters expected at the start of the season, but for some bad luck and a host of injuries in key positions, perhaps their respective campaigns might have been different.

“You look at the players in their team – Slipper, Horwell, Genia, Turner, O’Connor – these are really good rugby players, highly experienced internationals and this is a team going through a similar season to us,” explains Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby Gary Gold.

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Willem Alberts

Willem Alberts

The Cell C Sharks appear resigned to the fact that loose forward Willem Alberts will be leaving them after the 2015 Rugby World Cup to play in France, judging by comments coach Gary Gold made when quizzed about their latest signing, Waratahs loose forward Jacques Potgieter.

Potgieter, a similarly abrasive forward to Alberts, will join the Sharks in early 2016 ahead of next year’s expanded Super Rugby tournament.

“We think 1 or 2 of our players are going to move after the World Cup and Jacques is a big character, a strong ball carrier and hard-hitting defender. We hope he has the same impact for us as he has had for the Waratahs. His aspiration is to play more for the Springboks and he’s not going to achieve that if he’s not based in South Africa,” Gold said.

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Gary Gold

Gary Gold

Cell C Sharks boss Gary Gold admitted the pressure is mounting for his team, currently on a record 6-match losing streak.

The Durban-based franchise, who take on the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday, have only once before lost 6 straight matches – in 2000.

Director of Rugby, Gold, is adamant his charges can avoid the ignominy of a 7th straight defeat.

He said it is “critically important” that they finish off their Australasian tour with a win.

“We had a shocking 1st week against the Highlanders, then 2 good performances against the Hurricanes and Waratahs, where we weren’t on the right side of the scoreboard,” Gold said from the team’s base in Brisbane.

The Reds, who are 4 places (14th) and 5 points (16 to 21) below the Sharks, bounced back from their own horror run with a 46 / 29 win over the Melbourne Rebels last week.

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Pieter-Steph du Toit

Pieter-Steph du Toit

The Cell C Sharks appear to be winning the battle to retain the services of Cape bred Pieter-Steph du Toit, who has told Durban media that he is committed to the union that he says gave him his big break in rugby.

It has been an open secret for a while now that the Springbok lock, currently out injured, was in negotiations with the DHL Stormers. Until quite recently the Western Province union appeared to be winning the battle, with informed sources confirming that Du Toit, who is from Swartland farming stock, was nearly certain to make the move down the coast next season.

However, it is understood that the Sharks then fought quite hard with counter-offers and promises that a concerted effort will be made to get the structures in Durban rugby right, and in an interview with the Natal Mercury on Monday the lock said that while he couldn’t say what would happen in the longer term, he was committed to the Sharks for now.

Du Toit has been out injured for most of the past 2 seasons and appears to feel beholden to the patience and resources that the Sharks have committed to his medical rehabilitation.

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Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Bismarck du Plessis

Bismarck du Plessis

The Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, are set to sign a deal with French club Montpellier, a report in French media indicates.

Reports surfaced earlier this year that the Springbok brothers would join Montpellier on a 2-year deal after the conclusion of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but Montpellier denied it at the time.

However, according to RMC Sport, the double signing of the Sharks duo is expected to be announced in the coming days.

The Du Plessis brothers are believed to have respected their earlier commitment despite having some contact with Toulon.

Montpellier are coached by former Springbok coach Jake White, who was quoted as saying after their weekend defeat at Stade Francais: “Big names will be announced in the coming days. To win the Top 14, you need the best players in the world.”

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Cell C SharksCell C Sharks Director of Rugby Gary Gold has retained the same team to play the Waratahs on Saturday morning, having made no changes to the side that took on the Hurricanes last weekend.

It was a rousing display of commitment and passion and everyone involved will be hoping they repeat that, sort out the areas of their own they have identified, and contain a very big and physical Waratahs team.

“There is a lot of pride at stake,” said Gold of this match. “We’ve been bitterly disappointed this year, for various reasons, and it’s important for us to show that we’re still in this fight to the end.”

Assessing the Waratahs strengths and threats, he immediately points to their physicality.

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Stefan Ungerer

Stefan Ungerer

Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby, Gary Gold, has welcomed back a number of players to the team named to play the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium in Wellington in Saturday’s 2nd Super Rugby tour match for the Sharks.

Gold has been able to select his Springbok front row for the 1st time in 6 weeks to bolster the pack upfront, while also returning Francois Steyn and Renaldo Bothma back to the starting line-up. The big, physical players are expected to play a big role on the weekend against the log-leaders.

“The Hurricanes are a team on an absolute high at the moment, their performance against the Crusaders was outstanding and this is probably going to be a big challenge for our players at this moment in time, with our backs against the wall,” explains Gold.

“We’re playing the best team in the competition, it’s going to be an unbelievable challenge, but one that’s going to make us grow as a group.”

Lwazi Mvovo has been moved to fullback, a straight swap with Odwa Ndungane while Lionel Cronje wears the No 10 jersey, partnering Stefan Ungerer who gets his 1st start at scrumhalf.

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Jacques Potgieter

Jacques Potgieter

Joe Pietersen

Joe Pietersen

The Cell C Sharks, often in the news in recent times for the wrong reasons as well as for their dismal Super Rugby form in 2015, have confirmed the signing of Jacques Potgieter, from the Waratahs for the 2016 season onwards.

In addition local media report that the Toyota Cheetahs pivot, Joe Pietersen will also move to the Cell C Sharks and will start playing there in the 2015 ABSA Currie Cup campaign already.

 

Jacques Potgieter:

The Cell C Sharks Media release reads as follows:

We are pleased to announce the signing of Waratahs loose-forward Jacques Potgieter on a two-year contract with the Cell C Sharks.

Potgieter is no stranger to the Cell C Sharks, having played his junior rugby in Durban. Over the last few years he has made steady progress up the ranks with his sheer physical presence and explosiveness, which resulted in a Springbok call-up in 2012. In 2014, he was instrumental in the Waratahs victorious Super Rugby campaign.

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John Smit

John Smit

With the franchise struggling in year’s Super Rugby competition, Sharks CEO John Smit has written an open letter to their fans.

The Durbanites are currently 11th on the overall Super Rugby log, having won just 4 out of 11 matches.

Their players have also been punished for ill-discipline, with Bismarck du Plessis (4 weeks), Frans Steyn (5 weeks) and Jean Deysel (7 weeks) all copping bans during the current campaign.

Fans have expressed their disappointment via several social media platforms, with many blaming new Director of Rugby Gary Gold  for the team’s performances, while others also hit out at Smit.

Smit on Wednesday opted for the unusual route of writing a letter to the concerned fans.

 

The Sharks shared Smit’s letter via their official Facebook page:

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Gary Gold

Gary Gold

With the Cell C Sharks sitting in 11th position on the Combined Log, after suffering 7 losses, the only thing left to play for is pride, as the play-offs seem an almost impossible dream.

The Sharks were humiliated by the Highlanders in their 1st game of their Australasian tour, with even the most faithful of supporters conceding that the season is effectively over.

It seems that Sharks boss Gary Gold is in agreement, stating that they are now only playing for pride and to try and win back some disgruntled fans.

“The issue for us is that this is a matter of pride, of massive pride,” Gold said.

“We’ve let a lot of people down, we’ve let a lot of supporters down – the expectations were high for this team.

“I’m not about to provide any excuses for what happened in our performance, it was sub-standard and whatever the reasons are, we’ll investigate that.

“I take responsibility for it, I’ve said that before, but the bottom line is that we have to fix it.

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Cobus Reinach

Cobus Reinach

The Cell C Sharks’ task of rescuing their Vodacom Super Rugby tour of Australasia from disaster became more difficult on Monday when it was confirmed that Jaco Reinach had flown home after sustaining an arm fracture against the Highlanders last Friday.

Reinach was replaced at halftime in that game in what was explained to the television commentators as a tactical substitution. However, it has been subsequently learned that Reinach broke his arm and is on his way back to South Africa.

The Sharks took 3 scrumhalves on tour, so Director Of Rugby, Gary Gold, is likely to continue with Conrad Hoffmann, who finished the Highlanders game as Reinach’s replacement, with Stefan Ungerer coming into the match day squad to provide cover off the bench.

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Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks tackle the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday morning (09:35 SA Time) in the 1st of 4 overseas assignments in their Vodacom Super Rugby tour to New Zealand and Australia.

They enjoyed their 1st BYE last weekend after 10 Rounds of consecutive games and a refreshed squad is ready for the challenge that lies ahead.

Director of Rugby Gary Gold warns that the 6th-placed Highlanders, current qualifiers (and hopeful of remaining that way) and a dangerous attacking side, are worthy of strong respect.

“They have real game-breakers and it’s going to be a huge challenge for us on Friday,” he admits.

“I don’t think it gets much tougher than what we have coming on Friday.”

He has welcomed back hooker Bismarck du Plessis, lock Stephan Lewies and JP Pietersen into the starting line-up, all 3 Springboks bolstering the side.

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Bismarck du Plessis

Bismarck du Plessis

The Cell C Harks website reports that Bismarck du Plessis returns to the Cell C Sharks this weekend after serving a period of time away from the game, but, by his own noble request, will not be selected as captain for the match against the Highlanders.

“The situation is this,” explains Director of Rugby Gary Gold: “Bismarck has shown incredible humility about his personal situation over the past month and he feels that he just wants to get back into the Cell C Sharks team and make as big an impact as he can.

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Gary Gold

Gary Gold

The Sharks Director of Rugby, Gary Gold has selected a 27-member squad that departs, this Saturday, for the Australasian leg of Vodacom Super Rugby tournament.

Commenting on the squad selected and the tour, Gary Gold said: “I have gone for 15 forwards and 12 backs, my selection was based on who is fit and healthy, but the nice thing is that there are a lot of guys who can play in different positions.

“We are looking forward to this tour. Tours are funny things, I’ve seen teams in far worse positions than us fight to get back and we not giving up the fight. I believe in this group of guys and I am keen to work with them in adverse times – that’s when you see true warriors come out.

“That’s our challenge: we are down but we’re not out and now is the time to stand up and fight back. If we come back fighting in the last six games, we’ll salvage a lot of respect”, he added.

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Gary Gold

Gary Gold

Coach Gary Gold, Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby, has said his suspended players owe the team a lot when they return from their respective bans on the Sharks’ overseas tour.

Captain Bismarck du Plessis has officially served out his 4-week ban as of 18 April. His final suspension weekend was against the Bulls last Saturday.

Du Plessis will be available for the 1st game against the Highlanders in a fortnight, after the Sharks BYE this week.

Centre Frans Steyn’s ban comes to an end on 3 May, which would mean that the Springbok would be unavailable for the 1st tour match.

Coach Gold, looking ahead to their tour after a loss to the Bulls on the weekend, was hopeful that the return of his 2 super stars would allow them a chance to right the wrongs they have caused the team.

“I certainly hope that it will be a shot at redemption for those guys coming back,” Gold said of both Du Plessis and Steyn.

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Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks team named to play the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday shows nominal changes to the side that was picked last weekend, with 2 Springbok additions.

The only changes to the starting 15 are in a front row that this week features the Springbok prop duo of Jannie du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira, who return after an enforced rest last week as part of the agreement with the Springboks to provide regular breaks to the players.

Marco Wentzel retains the captaincy of a side that will look to build from the positives they took out of their clash with the Lions last weekend. The backline remains unchanged.

With the prospect of facing the Highlanders and Hurricanes in New Zealand and the Waratahs and Reds in Australia before returning to Durban for 2 final home games, Saturday’s derby against the Bulls comes at a vital time.

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Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira

Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira

Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

The return of the 2 experienced Springbok props, Beast Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis, are the only things that the Vodacom Bulls should take for granted about the Cell C Sharks team they will clash with in their Super Rugby derby in Durban at the weekend.

The Sharks did not train on Monday, as was the case the previous week, and at Tuesday’s training session those who watched it struggled to make out what director of rugby Gary Gold is planning for Saturday – except that the 2 Bok props will definitely be back.

No 8 Ryan Kankowski missed last week’s clash with the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg after pulling out following the captain’s practice. He is fit to face the Bulls but apparently he and Renaldo Bothma, who played at No 8 against the Lions and did well there, rotated during the training session. It is also not clear if JP Pietersen, the other fit Bok to miss the Lions clash, will be back in the starting team.

What does appear clear is that hooker Kyle Cooper and fullback SP Marais, 2 stalwart foot soldiers at the Sharks over the past few seasons, have fallen out of favour. Even though Bismarck du Plessis is out suspended and will be for another week, Cooper did not feature in the match day 23 last week – and it looks like he will miss out again for the Bulls.

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Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira

Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira

Cell C Sharks boss Gary Gold said if he had the choice he would not be resting veteran Springboks Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira against a formidable Lions scrum this weekend.

Gold has made a number of changes to the team that will travel up to Johannesburg to take on South Africa’s form team this weekend.

Some of these changes are enforced due to injury, some because of suspension and others the result of a selection rethink.

However, Gold seems least pleased about the fact that he needs to rest his key front row Springboks in accordance with SARU’s player management initiative.

“If I had an opportunity to play Jannie and Beast this weekend, I would,” Gold said ahead of the trip up to Ellis Park.

“These are decisions that were made at a higher level, and as bizarre as they are, they were made, and as much as I can stick to them, I am going to try and stick to them.”

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Super RugbyWith only 2 points separating 4 of the South African franchises on the Vodacom Super Rugby log after 8 weeks of play, Round 9 of the competition will again be crucial for local teams, with the derby in Johannesburg between the Emirates Lions and Cell C Sharks set to attract huge interest from spectators.

The remaining 3 South African sides play Australian opponents on Saturday, with the DHL Stormers taking on the Waratahs in Sydney, the Toyota Cheetahs playing the Western Force in Perth and the Vodacom Bulls closing out a big weekend of rugby in their Pretoria clash against the Reds.

The DHL Stormers will be looking for a 1st tour win against the defending champion Waratahs, knowing that the home side has won 12 of their last 13 matches in Sydney, with a victory margin of 18 points per match.

The Toyota Cheetahs will still be chasing a 1st overseas win in 2015, when they close out their tour against the Western Force at the NIB Stadium in Perth. The Cheetahs have won at this venue in the past, but will have to defend like never before.

They average the most missed tackles in the competition, while the home side maintains the best tackling success rate (90%).

The Emirates Lions host the Cell C Sharks at Emirates Airline Park in the only South African derby of the weekend, which is expected to be a fiercely contested clash. The home team is well aware that a win could push them into 1st place in the South African conference, albeit that the Vodacom Bulls could again overhaul them later in the evening.

The Cell C Sharks will be desperate to put their recent misfortunes behind them and win away from home.

The Vodacom Bulls take on the Reds, who despite not having the greatest of seasons, have a good record against the Loftus Versfeld team, winning 10 of their 16 encounters. Continue reading

Marco Wentzel

Marco Wentzel

Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby Gary Gold has made a number of changes to his team to take on the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg this Saturday, welcoming back 2 players from injury to bolster his side.

Etienne Oosthuizen and Willem Alberts have both returned from injury lay-offs and the pair will start their return to rugby making an impact off the bench.

Odwa Ndungane has been named at fullback, replacing SP Marias who gets a rest after starting all 8 matches to date. This sees the return of S’bura Sithole on the wing, with Fred Zeilinga replacing the injured Pat Lambie at flyhalf in the final change to the backline.

Upfront, there is an overhaul with Lourens Adriaanse, Franco Marais and Dale Chadwick packing down in the front row, after Jannie du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira were rested, while Renaldo Bothma replaces Jean Deysel at blindside flank in the final change.

Marco Wentzel has been named Captain.

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Willem Alberts

Willem Alberts

The Cell C Sharks have been boosted by the news that Springbok loose forward Willem Alberts has returned to training and will be available for selection this weekend.

Alberts missed the 1st few matches of the Super Rugby season with injury and returned to action in the game against the DHL Stormers on 7 March. He then suffered another injury setback in the game at Newlands which saw him spend more time on the sidelines.

However, according to the Sharks’ official website, Alberts has now recovered sufficiently and will be available to face the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg this weekend.

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Patrick Lambie

Patrick Lambie

Cell C Sharks and Springbok flyhalf Patrick Lambie has been ruled out for 6 weeks, following a neck injury sustained against the Crusaders in their humiliating defeat by the Crusaders in Durban during Round 8 of Super Rugby.

Lambie has suffered a neck vertebrae injury, which saw him leave the field and replaced by Fred Zeilinga during the game on the weekend.

The Sharks have now lost no less than 4 leaders, with regular skipper Bismark Du Plessis still suspended, as is Frans Steyn.

Jean Deysel has received a hefty 7 week suspension for his deliberate knee to the head of Crusaders flank Matt Todd, and now the crucial blow of Lambie.

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Jean Deysel receives his marching orders

Jean Deysel receives his marching orders

The SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Nicholas Davidson QC has accepted a guilty plea from Jean Deysel of the Sharks for contravening Law 10.4 (a) Punching or striking, after he was sent off following a Super Rugby match at the weekend.

Deysel has been suspended from all forms of the game for 7 weeks up to and including Saturday 23 May 2015.

The incident occurred in the 42nd minute of the match between the Sharks and Crusaders played at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban on 4 April 2015.

SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Nicholas Davidson QC assessed the case.

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Gary Gold

Gary Gold

Cell C Sharks coach Gary Gold has taken full accountability after his team’s dismal 10 / 52 loss against the Crusaders in Durban at the weekend.

In a game that saw the Durban team booed off the field, and a 3rd Red Card in 3 matches handed out to one of their team leaders, Gold could do little else but ask for mercy.

At the conclusion of the match, amidst the jeers and spectators streaming from the park, newest captain Pat Lambie apologised directly to the fans at the stadium.

This set the tone for Gold, who echoed similar sentiments.

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Gary Gold

Gary Gold

Cell C Sharks coach Gary Gold has said there is no ill-discipline rot in Durban and that the multiple Red Cards this season have been isolated incidents.

The Sharks were punished by a determined Crusaders side 52 / 10 on Saturday, and if 2 tries against them in the 1st 5 minutes did not spell out the end for the home team, Jean Deysel’s Red Card most certainly did.

The Sharks have now seen 3 Red Cards in 3 games, starting with captain Bismarck du Plessis being sent off for lashing out against the Chiefs, and Frans Steyn joining him on the sidelines for a tip tackle in the same game.

This week, another one of the Sharks’ senior players in Jean Deysel, was handed a Red Card for a deliberate knee to a Crusaders player’s head.

Du Plessis was banned for 4 weeks, with Steyn out for 5 on appeal, after initially getting off scot free.

It remains to be seen what sanction Deysel will receive, but Gold maintains there is no trend developing.

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Jean Deysel receives his marching orders

Jean Deysel receives his marching orders

Cell C Sharks flank Jean Deysel has been cited after receiving a Red Card against the Crusaders on Saturday, as the Sharks prepare to again tussle with SANZAR.

Deysel is alleged to have contravened Law 10.4 (a) Punching or striking, in an incident that occurred in the 42nd minute of the match between the Sharks and Crusaders at Kings Park in Durban.

The Crusaders ran out comfortable 52 / 10 winners.

The case is to be considered in the first instance by SANZAR judicial officer Nicholas Davidson QC.

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Cell C SharksSpringboks Marcell Coetzee, Cobus Reinach and Patrick Lambie will all start for the Sharks when they face the Crusaders in Durban on Saturday.

Lambie and Reinach are straight swaps for Frans Steyn and Conrad Hoffmann, with Lambie also taking over the captaincy.

Back-row forward Renaldo Bothma gets a deserved rest after starting all but one match so far this season.

He will take great comfort from his man of the match award against the Force last week and will provide ample firepower off the bench, with Coetzee taking his place after enjoying a week’s rest.

Kyle Cooper continues at hooker in the absence of the suspended Bismarck du Plessis.

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Francois Steyn

Francois Steyn

SANZAR, the controlling body for Southern Hemisphere rugby, moved swiftly to defuse the storm that erupted in the wake of Springbok Francois Steyn’s 5-week ban.

A SANZAR appeals committee – chaired by Terry Willis (Australia), who was assisted by Nigel Hampton (New Zealand) and Robert Stelzner (South Africa) – slapped the ban on the Sharks utility back after a hearing earlier this week.

Steyn, who was Red-Carded for his lifting tackle on Aaron Cruden in the Sharks’ 12 / 11 win over the Chiefs on 21 March, was cleared by South African judicial officer Jannie Lubbe at the original hearing on 23 Match. He also expunged Steyn’s Red Card.

However, SANZAR felt strongly about the message sent out by the result of the original hearing and appealed.

That hearing, which took place on Tuesday this week, found Steyn guilty and suspended him up to, and including 3 May.

In reaction to the fall-out to their appeal and subsequent ban of Steyn, SANZAR said they felt Lubbe made a ‘clear error of fact and law’.

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Francois Steyn

Francois Steyn

The SANZAR Appeal against the Ruling of the Judicial Officer in the Francois Steyn case, was heard on Tuesday and the Appeals Committee, chaired by Terry Willis (Australia) and comprising Nigel Hampton QC (New Zealand) and Robert Stelzner SC (South Africa), has ruled in favour of SANZAR, setting aside the verdict of the judicial hearing which cleared Francois Steyn of a lifting tackle and which expunged the Red Card.

The Appeals Committee unanimously upheld the appeal brought by SANZAR and found that Steyn breached Law 10.4 (j) and that the referee was correct to Red Card the player during the match between the Cell C Sharks and the Chiefs played at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban on Saturday 21 March 2015.

The Committee determined that the relevant sanction was 4 matches. After taking into consideration the Sharks’ bye in Round 11, Steyn was suspended from all forms of the game up to and including 3 May 2015.

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