Rugby World Cup hopeful Schalk Brits has been dealt a blow to his ambitions after being suspended following the old school punch up Sharks hooker Akker van der Merwe on Saturday. Both players pleaded guilty, but the mitaging factors differed slightly.
The two players came to blows at a ruck, with Van der Merwe – known affectionately as the Angry Warthog – the instigator. After Brits retaliated, things heated up in Durban.
Both received Red Cards and have since faced disciplinary hearings for contravening Law 9.12: A player must not physically abuse anyone. Physical abuse includes, but is not limited to punching or striking with the hand or arm.
They each had different hearings with different Foul Play Review Committee members. For Van der Merwe, Adam Casselden SC (Chairman), Stefan Terblanche and Eroni Clarke assessed the case.
“With respect to sanction the Foul Play Review Committee deemed the act of foul play merited a mid-range entry point of 6 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,” their statement read.
“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 3 weeks. The player is therefore suspended for 3 weeks, up to and including 19 April 2019.”
For Brits, he faced Helen Morgan, David Croft and Lawrence Sephaka via video conference this morning.
“With respect to sanction the Judicial Committee deemed the act of foul play merited a mid-range entry point of 6 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 more than one punch.
“However, taking into account mitigating factors including the Player’s demonstrated remorse, extensive experience, the fact the Player’s actions were in self-defence and the Player has pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity, the Judicial Committee reduced the suspension by 2 weeks.
“The Judicial Committee was conscious of the fact that the Player was not the instigator of the incident, but due to the Player’s previous two periods of suspension for striking offences, the Judicial Committee were unable to provide the full 50% discount for the sanction. This leads to a sanction of 4 weeks.”
Brits was therefore suspended from all forms of the game for 4 weeks.
So, @SchalkBrits gets 4 weeks. And those who heard his case accepted he was acting in self defence and wasn't the instigator. His previous suspensions didn't help. But, come on, when will the whole disciplinary process be standardised and fairness per incident prevail? @IOLsport https://t.co/zVl3a35BQk
— Jacques vdWesthuyzen (@jacq_west) April 2, 2019
In summary, Van der Merwe has received a 3 week ban and Brits a 4 week ban, due to the latter having incidents on his record.
The past incidents mentioned in the hearing are when Brits was suspended in 2013 for striking Owen Farrell when playing for the Barbarians against the British and Irish Lions. He was then suspended for another three weeks in 2016 when he was red carded for punching Gloucester’s Nick Wood in the then Aviva Premiership.
Those suspensions have come back to haunt him as despite not starting it and clearly not doing much damage from the floor, he’s got a heavier sanction than Van der Merwe. You can watch the full incident below.
The positive news is that the two, who are both vying for a hooker spot in the Springboks Rugby World Cup squad, shared a beer and a chat post match.