The SANZAAR Foul Play Review Committee has accepted a guilty plea from Sharks centre Jeremy Ward for contravening Law 9.18: A player must not lift an opponent off the ground and drop or drive that player so that their head and/or upper body make contact with the ground, after he was cited during the Durban-based side's Super Rugby clash against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
Ward has been suspended from all forms of the game for five matches, up to and including Friday, April 19.
The incident occurred in the 13th minute of the match which the Bulls won 37-14.
The SANZAAR Foul Play Review Committee of Adam Casselden SC (chairperson), Eroni Clarke and Stephen Hardy assessed the case.
In his finding, Foul Play Review Committee Chairman Adam Casselden SC ruled the following:
"Having conducted a detailed review of all the available evidence, including all camera angles and additional evidence, including from the player and submissions from his legal representative, Marius Botha, the Foul Play Review Committee upheld the citing under Law 9.18."
"With respect to sanction the Foul Play Review Committee deemed the act of foul play merited a mid-range entry point of 10 weeks due to 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 victim player's head made contact with the ground due to the Player's reckless actions. However, taking into account mitigating factors including the Player's age, relative inexperience, remorse, and the fact the Player has pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity, the Foul Play Review Committee reduced the suspension to 5 weeks."
"The player is therefore suspended for 5 weeks (matches), up to and including Friday, April 19, 2019.”
All SANZAAR disciplinary matters are in the first instance referred to the Foul Play Review Committee to provide the option of expediting the judicial process.
For a matter to be dispensed with at this hearing, the person appearing must plead guilty and accept the penalty offered by the Foul Play Review Committee.
Referee Marius van der Westhuizen was heard asking TMO Christie du Preez if the incident needed to be reviewed, but Du Preez's response was that it didn't.
Clearly, the SANZAAR Foul Play Review Committee felt otherwise.
Despite the SANZAAR media release on Tuesday suggesting Ward has been banned for five weeks (until Friday, April 19) it's actually five matches Ward will miss during that period as the Sharks have a bye this weekend.
Ward will be forced to sit out clashes against the Rebels (home - Saturday, March 23), Bulls (home - Saturday, March 30), Lions (away - Friday, April 5), Jaguares (home - Saturday, April 13) and Reds (home - Friday, April 19).