Bulls captain Flip van der Merwe has called on his team to continue to improve if they are to make the knockout stages. Photo: Lee Warren

Johannesburg – Flip van der Merwe will miss the Bulls Super Rugby encounter against the Western Force on Saturday after he was handed a three-week suspension.

A Sanzar judicial hearing on Wednesday found the Bulls lock guilty of “punching or striking” during the match between the Bulls and Waratahs at the Allianz Stadium in Sydney at the weekend.

Sanzar judicial officer Adam Casselden ruled that Van der Merwe had struck Paddy Ryan's nose with his hand, arm or fist but no injury was sustained by Ryan.

“Having considered all the matters that are in Regulation 17.9.2, I was satisfied that a mid-level entry point was appropriate, particularly considering the intent of Mr Van der Merwe to strike Mr Ryan and the vulnerable position Mr Ryan was placed in at the base of a collapsed scrum in circumstances where he could not protect himself from Mr Van der Merwe’s action,” Casselden said in a statement.

“A mid-level entry point dictates a suspension of five weeks, but due to the player’s good character, lengthy professional playing career and his relatively clean disciplinary record, I was satisfied that the five-week entry point should be reduced to three weeks.

“Accordingly, the player is suspended from all forms of rugby from April 26 up to and including May 11.” – Sapa