South Africa have been dealt a blow ahead of their Rugby Championship decider against New Zealand with news that Flip van der Merwe will miss the match due to suspension.
Van der Merwe, who plays in the second row, was deemed to have committed a red card offence on Australian winger Joe Tomane and will therefore be sidelined for one week.
Nicholas Davidson QC said in a statement, per Sport24:
The player was initially sin-binned for a dangerous tackle but the citing alleged a deliberate striking …
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.
As noted in Davidson’s statement, van der Merwe received a yellow card just before half-time in South Africa’s 28-8 triumph over Australia on Saturday.
However, the incident was deemed to have been more serious by the citing commissioner, who alleged the Springbok had struck Tomane.
The good disciplinary record of van der Merwe prevented a more serious punishment being meted out, although the one-week ban still means he misses South Africa’s biggest match of the year.
A bonus-point victory for the Springboks over the All Blacks in Johannesburg on Saturday would see them snatch the Rugby Championship from their rivals’ grasp—if they also deny New Zealand from picking up a losing bonus point.
Van der Merwe has played in all five of South Africa’s games so far in the tournament, but coach Heyneke Meyer has had to look for reinforcements.
Franco van der Merwe of the Lions is the man to benefit from his namesake’s misfortune, with Meyer staying calm over the enforced change to his squad, per ESPNFC.
"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," Meyer commented.
Who will win the decisive Test?
The set-piece is likely to be a major part of South Africa’s game plan against New Zealand, who have looked particularly questionable at the lineout.
Argentina barely opted to challenge the All Blacks’ throw in their recent encounters, particularly in the first meeting of the two sides when they contested only two of 12 lineouts.
South Africa will be expected to apply significantly more pressure, regardless of van der Merwe’s suspension.