DURBAN – Sharks centre Jeremy Ward has been handed a hefty five-week ban for a dangerous tackle on Bulls wing Rosko Specman, but it would have been double had Ward not pleaded guilty.
In the 14th minute of the Sharks 37-14 defeat to the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld at the weekend, Ward grips Specman around the waist, twists the wing around and then drives him head first towards the ground.
The dangerous tackle was off the ball and escaped the attention of the referee and touch judges but the citing commissioner picked up on it and issued a post-match red card.
At the ensuing hearing yesterday, the Sanzaar Foul Play Review Committee deemed that the tackle warranted a mid-range entry point of 10 weeks as per the stringent instructions from World Rugby regarding foul play that could cause head injury.
The chairman of the committee, Adam Casselden, said: “The evidence demonstrated the victim player’s head made contact with the ground due to the tackler’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 suspension is reduced to five weeks, effective to and including Friday, 19 April.
That means the 23-year-old will miss the Sharks’ game against the Rebels next weekend, the return match against the Bulls at Jonsson Kings Park, their away match to the Lions, the home match against the Jaguares and the visit to the Reds in Brisbane, which is played on the last day of Ward’s suspension.
Ward, who is building a reputation as a tough tackler, was in 2016 suspended for two weeks for a dangerous tackle on an England player when he was captaining the SA Under-20 team in a World Championship match.