Duhan van der Merwe to miss remainder of Six Nations

Scotland winger has been slapped with a three-week ban following his red-carding whilst playing for Worcester Warriors on Saturday

Duhan van der Merwe's Six Nations is over. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Duhan van der Merwe's Six Nations is over. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

DUHAN VAN DER MERWE is to miss the remainder of this year’s Six Nations campaign after being handed a three-week ban following his red-carding whilst playing club rugby for Worcester Warriors versus London Irish on Saturday, when his forearm made contact with fellow Scotland squad member Kyle Rowe’s face as he attempted to fend a tackle.

The winger’s case was considered by an RFU disciplinary panel this [Tuersday] evening, when he accepted that foul play had occurred but questioned whether the red card threshold had been met. The panel upheld the red-card and banned the player for three weeks, however, subject to completing the World Rugby Coaching Intervention programme he will be free to play again for his club against Gloucester on 25th March.

Scotland’s two remaining Six Nations matches are against Italy away this Saturday (12th March) and Ireland away next Saturday (19th March).

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“The player had sufficient time and opportunity to have execute a lawful hand-off but failed to do so,” said panel chair Jeremy Summers. “The contact he made to an opponent’s head was direct, at speed and involved a leading forearm all of which were factors pointing to high danger and a red card in the World Rugby Head Contact Process. No low danger or mitigating factors were present and, whilst some may feel it resulted in a harsh outcome, the referee correctly appleid the HCP.”

Van der Merwe has been a first choice starter for Scotland since making his international debut in October 2020, scoring 10 tries in 16 caps to date. Blair Kinghorn appears to be the most obvious replacement for the South African-born 26-year-old this weekend, although Kyle Steyn and Rowe are also in the frame.

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About David Barnes 3908 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. Farcical decision no intent, no real force, bit of a slip, looked much worse than it really was. Tackler was too high anyway. Penalty only. Yet when Sam Skinner got deliberately assaulted by Wales player cocked shoulder to the head with force – it was explained away as not much of a contact- not much force, deemed only a penalty. What a farce. DVDM gets 3 weeks ban for being a great rugby player and trying a hand off.

  2. It’s always amusing to read how terrible it is when a player of your team/country is banned for a red card to the head whereas it is quite right for opponents to face a ban for the same offence.

    • JW, I think that’s unfair, in particular on this forum, where I think all contributers attempt to maintain a troll free and fair and honest conversation.

      If this was an English player committing the offence and banned for the Scotland game, I think our view of the decision would be the same, but we’d take the benefit for Scotland with tongue firmly in cheek.

  3. If the contact was ‘direct, at speed and involved a forearm’ surely an HIA should be mandatory, otherwise there must have been insufficient force to warrant a red card. Also it could be argued that the speed of contact was generated by the tackler.
    Immediately after VDM was tackled and grounded, a LIR player slid in leading with the knee and appeared to make contact with VDM head area, yet this was ignored?
    As has been said before players will soon be lowering the head to ensure head contact to result in a red card – ‘ taking one for the team’
    Its a can of worms and more and more is becoming trial by TV with refs authority and decision making being undermined by TMO. Where will it end?

    • Completely agree Ed, pathetic decision.

      Also I’d assume no appeal, as appeals are frowned upon by the IRB and Fagersons appeal shows it would be a waste of time anyway.

  4. Kyle Steyn is a more fitting replacement than Kinghorn.

    Rugby officiating is in need of review, as there are far too many cards being shown for decidedly dubious “dangerous” offences in a game that is a full contact sport by its very nature.

  5. I’m not very familiar with the framework applied in these cases, but I’d have thought the lack of force would have been sufficient mitigation to overturn the red card or prevent a ban. He clearly makes contact with the head, but there is very little force and it is with a forearm – how this doesn’t meet the ‘low danger’ threshold for mitigation I’m not sure.

    VDM should appeal to try to be available for Dublin, but as his club will be responsible for him and does not get any disadvantage there is no incentive for them to do so.

  6. I wonder if it was an English, NZ or SA player if the result would have been the same both on the pitch and after.. doesn’t this give a green light to a tackler to put his head in a semi dangerous place and get their opponent sent off? He tried to hand him off and the player slipped beyond his hand and made contact with his elbow. Ridiculous

  7. There’s no 6 nations rest week when you take the money from English and French teams. They’ll quite rightly want their pound of flesh and I saw Hoggy was playing as well. VDM was red carded for Worcester but they’ll see no material impact and he’ll be back fresh in 2 weeks time. Financially it makes sense in the short term to go to those countries but I wonder if you get a longer career and overall a similar amount of money by staying in Scotland and taking advantage of the rest periods. I think he’ll opt for Kinghorn freeing up a bench space for Hastings.

  8. Similar to Liam Williams on James Lang last 6N, which went totally unpunished. Zero tolerance approach, 50% of the time

  9. There you go, another ‘rubber stamping’ of an on field decision that frankly did not look to be any different in force or intent other than it was a different part of the arm initially rather than the hand that had contact, it wasn’t anything like a short arm.
    A rubber stamping that denies the opportunity in what is a contact sport to suggest that additional punishment to the sending off is frankly not merited, I wonder what the make up of the panel was, far too often they have been seen to be individuals so far from the modern game or lacking in playing skills at the level they are adjudicating on it’s a joke.
    My view may not be a popular one with certain individuals however the game is fast developing into farce with inconsequential contacts being considered no matter how slight to be tantamount to GBH, goodness knows what they would have done to John Gainsford when he short armed Richard Sharp on the Lions tour in ‘62.
    Not only that far too often the supposed recipient of the transgression isn’t even assessed for an HIA, yet for many the collision that involved Tomas Francis which by all accounts so him dazed and staggering off the field and subsequently passing an HIA not only came back on he is deemed fit to play at the weekend.
    The game is being strangled by World Rugby changes to Laws that either are not thought through with any apparent due process, exemplified by the ludicrous situation in the Ireland v Italy fixture that saw a team disadvantaged not by the manipulation of coaches but by the officials themselves.
    The changes to the Laws in a contact sport are bringing about ludicrous decisions almost on technicalities, why, because World Rugby and the Unions are desperate to show that ‘due care’ is given in case of a class action such as the one where former players are claiming playing the game was the cause of early onset of dementia.
    My father sadly had dementia, never played sport, was a Musician all his adult life and the only possible head injury he could have sustained was knocking his head against the wall at my School results.
    In so many areas the game is dying on its feet with the ridiculous ‘Starters and Finishers’ system of a XV plus half a team on the bench. It might well suit the top teams but at the grass roots all it does is decimate the 3rd XV with a knock on effect, that’s why don’t we see Clubs running 5 or 6 sides anymore? Would you have been happy sitting on the bench waiting to be Second-Fiddle.
    What a mess the game is in.

    • George. There are no starters and finishers in club rugby. That’s a pro concept as they have the player pool to do that and the rules that allow it

      Prem – 5
      The comp regs say between 3-5 for Nat 1-3
      Regional 1 – 4
      Other regional – up to 7 (mainly I think to give playing time)

      • Thanks just goes to show two things the first is the pal I asked would seem to know less than me he assured me that was the problem the second is I should have asked an open question on the Offsideline forum.
        However I still think in the professional game the ‘Bench’ system is causing problems that many of us have identified.
        I’m driving to Austria on Saturday, I wonder whether that will be a blessing in disguise, time will tell. Thanks again.

      • Ps – Just an additional thought based on your comment, do you think World Rugby reducing the Bench size to Max 3 [Utility back and two forwards] might help reduce professional squads and thereby offer up the possibility of more than 2 sides being run by the SRU, just a thought.

      • I think they should reduce benches anyway. Would bring aerobic capacity back into the game. As you say, bringing on three monster front row players with 30 mins to go is a recipe for injury.

        And subs only for injuries

      • Well ‘angry gala’ I wouldn’t leave it at 3, I would aspire to 4 but if you are content with the situation as it is with just the two professional teams, well fair enough everyone is entitled to an opinion, at least for better or worse I’ve put my name to mine, if you get my drift.

      • It was a genuine question George, it’s easy to say set up at least a third pro team and potentially more but where is the market? Would Edinburgh or Glasgow get a second team? Netherdale, Aberdeen?

        Why the attack on my name? I would love to see more pro teams in Scotland.

      • @ Angry Gala, well I have always thought London Scottish could be utilised in some fashion and I think if the SRU put their priorities in a different order and dropped some of the token stuff they might be able to find an accommodation with an additional professional side back home, and as I suggested if the squad in the professional game could be reduced to a sensible level of travelling with spares for injury as many have suggested then that would release Peter to pay Paul. I apologies for upsetting you regarding your ID, perhaps it is just the realisation of what my drive to Austria is going to cost me put me in an even grumpier mood than usual.


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