JOHANNESBURG - Is this the end of Pierre Schoeman’s Bulls career? The six weeks ban imposed on Schoeman after he admitted to biting a Melbourne Rebels player means that the former Affies scholar will not participate in any Super Rugby matches for the Loftus Versfeld based outfit until after the June international window recess.
But in the time that Schoeman has to watch his team from the sidelines, it could spell disaster for his prospects of regaining his starting berth in the side with Lizo Gqoboka already guaranteed the number one jersey against the Highlanders on Saturday and beyond.
If Gqoboka produces any of the performances he has off the bench for the Bulls this season then Schoeman might as well kiss his Bulls career goodbye as he is set to leave South Africa at the end of the Super Rugby season to join Edinburgh in Scotland.
“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, Attie Heyns, the Judicial Committee accepted the player’s guilty plea and upheld the citing under Law 9.12 - A Player must not physically abuse anyone,” said a Sanzar statement on behalf of the judicial committee.
"Physical abuse includes, but is not limited to biting. With respect to sanction, the Judicial Committee deemed the act of foul play merited a low-end entry point of 12 weeks. However, taking into account mitigating factors including the player’s early guilty plea, his good character, his good disciplinary record and his remorse, the Judicial Committee reduced the suspension to a period of six weeks."
Bulls coach John Mitchell refused to be drawn into the matter and said that they would focus on the road forward which is their next game against the Highlanders and their subsequent matches without Schoeman.
“We just get on with the next person. It’s like an injury, you don’t want anything bad to happen to a mate but there is consequences to injuries and also foul play. Unfortunately we are in a world where you have to be compliant,” said Mitchell.
“At the end of the day you will have to go through the judge’s report. He won’t be selected on the weekend.”
“You leave those things to the judicial system. We will always look after our player welfare and back them up with the necessary support but in the end it is the judge, athlete and lawyers so I will stay out of it. Lizo is quite fresh as well and now he obviously has to take his opportunity and he will be well excited.”
Schoeman is the second Bulls prop to be handed a six week suspension after Conraad van Vuuren also pleaded guilty to a high and reckless tackle on Chiefs and All Black utility back Damian McKenzie and was sanctioned.