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Ex-Springboks No9 cops a ban following red card on Saracens debut

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

New Saracens signing Ivan van Zyl last month enthused how he was living the dream after joining the newly promoted London club, but the South African’s upbeat outlook has now suffered a blow following his ban for a red card in a pre-season friendly. The scrum-half – last capped by the Springboks in 2018 – was sent off in Belfast last Friday night and won’t be available to play again until early October following a four-week suspension.     


Mark McCall brought his Championship title-winning squad to his native Northern Ireland in the hope of enjoying a positive first step ahead of their new season back in the Gallagher Premiership following their automatic relegation for repeated breaches of the salary cap. 

The long-serving coach would have enjoyed the result, Saracens comfortably beating his former club 45-21, but there was a disappointing twist to the trip when the debut-making van Zyl was sent off in the 51st minute by referee Frank Murphy for tackling the airborne Craig Gilroy as the Ulster player collected the high ball. 

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At the resulting disciplinary hearing, van Zyl accepted the charge and was given a four-match suspension by the independent disciplinary panel comprising Jeremy Summers (chair) with Becky Essex and Tony Wheat. He is free to play again on October 5, by which stage he will have missed Saracens’ pre-season rematch in London with Ulster this Thursday as well as the upcoming Premiership games versus Bristol and Leicester and a friendly against Ealing Trailfinders. 

In the full judgment, it emerged that while the RFU agreed the offence “was not grossly negligent, it was sufficiently serious to warrant a mid-range entry point”. This was in contrast to the Saracens view where a submission in support of van Zyl said the offence should be assessed at the low end of the scale of seriousness. 

It was claimed van Zyl has made a simple mistake in a fast-moving situation where he thought a different Ulster play was going to compete for the high ball and that he didn’t see Gilroy until it was too late. The hearing summary described van Zyl as “a candid and credible witness” but the panel concluded that the circumstances of the offending were such that the degree of recklessness could not be viewed as being at a low level. This resulted in a mid-range eight-week sanction entry point before 50 per cent mitigation was applied to the ban.  

It was August 24 when van Zyle, the 26-year-old capped on six occasions by the Springboks, told the Saracens website: “Playing for Saracens has always been a dream of mine so to be here is really special. I was still playing at the Bulls when Sarries got in contact and I met with the coaches over Zoom. After that, I knew that I wanted to make the move and it happened really quickly which was all pretty surreal.” 



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