South Africa's Flip van der Merwe has been ruled out of the Rugby Championship title-decider against New Zealand this weekend after being suspended for a week for a dangerous challenge on Australia's Joe Tomane during their clash on Saturday.
Van der Merwe faced a Sanzar judicial hearing today via video conference after he was alleged to have punched or struck winger Tomane in the Springboks' 28-8 win over the Wallabies in Cape Town on Saturday.
Referee Jerome Garces showed Van der Merwe a yellow card after the incident, which occurred just before half-time. However, the citing commissioner deemed that it met the red card threshold for foul play.
In a statement, Nicholas Davidson QC said: "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.
He continued: "Van der Merwe has a good disciplinary record at international and Super Rugby level and has never before been suspended...Although breach was denied, the 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."
Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer moved swiftly to fill the void by calling up Lions lock Franco van der Merwe who will join the squad later today. "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 Meyer.
On the injury front, only centre JJ Engelbrecht is a slight concern at the moment having injured aquad muscle and will be given as much time as he needs to fully recover.
The Springboks need to win with a bonus point, while also depriving the All Blacks of a bonus point, to lift the title.