Bulls hooker Schalk Brits and his Sharks opposite number Akker van der Merwe have both been given multiple week suspensions for their altercation at Kings Park on Saturday.
If the brief brawl had been scored by UFC judges van der Merwe would have scored a decisive victory. Van der Merwe became irate after Brits responded to an attempted cleanout, during which the Sharks man’s head struck the Bull’s player’s head (The disciplinary committee did not deem that a headbutt had begun the fight).
Brits threw the first punch, a wild swing with his left arm which enraged van der Merwe, and for that reason was also sent off and slapped with a ban . The Sharks and Springbok hooker would land several punches to Brits’ scrumcapped head but received a three week ban as opposed to the four weeks imposed on the Bulls hooker.
“Brits escaped the maximum penalty of six weeks because he showed remorse, pleaded guilty and was acting in self-defence,” a SANZAAR judicial committee hearing said
Van der Merwe had his own six week suspension cut in half as it was the first time he had been found guilty of striking an opponent. Brits did not qualify for such clemency due to his two previous suspensions for striking.
The ban will see Brits miss the Bulls entire April Super Rugby schedule while van der Merwe could return for the Freedom Day clash between the Sharks and the Waratahs.
Van der Merwe is set to follow in Brits’ footsteps in a manner of speaking, when he quits SA rugby to join Sale in England. Brits spent nine years at Saracens in the English Premiership, a popular destination for South African players.
The Bulls won a hard-fought, if at at times dour, contest against the Sharks 19-16 to leave the South African Super Rugby conference still very much in the balance.