The Springbok second rower was cited for punching Waratahs counterpart Paddy Ryan last week.
Adjudicator Adam Casselden revealed that he’d seen clear footage of Van der Merwe striking Ryan and had managed to establish intent as well.
His case wasn’t helped by Casselden noting Ryan’s “vulnerable position he was placed in at the base of a collapsed scrum in circumstances where he could not protect himself from Van der Merwe’s action”.
In the short term, it robs the Bulls of a key leadership figure for Saturday’s meeting with the Force in Perth while also complicating the on-field management of veteran Victor Matfield, who’ll deputise for Van der Merwe and be required to be in the thick of things far more than was initially envisaged.
“It’s a big blow for us,” said coach Frans Ludeke of Van der Merwe’s sanctioning yesterday.
“It’s another leader, another senior player and we never want stuff like that, but it is part of the competition. Looking at the incident, it is a pity that it happened, and we will need to regroup and adjust.”
The pragmatic Ludeke admitted that Matfield’s involvement would be assessed weekly, but reiterated his worth.
“We have to be honest, this arrangement is working in our favour big time. It’s a credit to his commitment. He’s been at the forefront of dealing with the issues we’ve experienced on this tour and it’s great to have him.”