DURBAN – There were significant developments on the hooker front for the Sharks yesterday, with Akker van der Merwe escaping serious censure for a fist fight in the Super Rugby derby with the Bulls at Jonsson Kings Park, while Chiliboy Ralepelle is set to find out today whether he is guilty of a doping offence.
The good news is that Van der Merwe was given a light three-week ban for his altercation with the Bulls’ Schalk Brits when many thought he could get as much as three months, such was the ferocity of his blitz on Brits.
It is understood that there was initial provocation from Brits and that the 36-year-old is in fact in line for a heavier (four-week) suspension than Van der Merwe when he faces the music this morning.
After the Van der Merwe hearing yesterday, the committee’s chairman, Adam Casselden, said Van der Merwe’s act of foul play merited a mid-range entry point of six weeks but the suspension was reduced due to mitigating factors.
“Taking into account the player’s good judicial record and the fact he pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity, we reduced the suspension to three weeks.”
Van der Merwe is therefore suspended up to and including 19 April meaning he will miss the Sharks’ games against the Lions (on Friday night), the Jaguares and the Reds (both at Kings Park in the ensuing fortnight).
Meanwhile, the results of Ralepelle’s B-sample test are to be divulged today following his alleged positive test for a banned substance in January, when the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (Saids) conducted random drug tests after a Sharks training session.
Ralepelle has exercised the right to have a B sample tested, and he appeared on a TV show protesting his innocence, claiming that he had tested positive for Zeranol, which is a legal growth promotant for livestock, and not strictly a steroid.
Saids chief executive officer Khalid Galant has been quoted in the media as saying that the 32-year-old Ralepelle underwent his B-sample test last week.
“The B-sample opening, witnessing and analysis has taken place, and the results should be in by Tuesday,” he said.
On a recent eNCA show, Ralepelle said: “The Zeranol test is another false allegation against me, an allegation which I deny. I did not take any of these substances. At the end of the day, I’m a professional athlete, and it threatens my career and my future as an athlete, so it’s important that I get this cleared to prove that I am not the one who has gone and taken all these things to make myself a better person.”
In 2014, when Ralepelle was playing for French club Toulouse, he tested positive for an anabolic steroid and was banned for two years.