Cape Town - Cheetahs centre Nico Lee will miss the remainder of the PRO14 season after being handed a 13-week ban for clearing his nose in the face of an opponent.
Lee, 24, appeared before a PRO14 disciplinary committee after being cited for an act of poor sportsmanship during the Cheetahs' 25-17 defeat to Irish side Connacht in Galway last weekend.According to the PRO14's official website, Lee was reported for alleged infringement of Law 9.27 - A Player must not do anything that is against the spirit of good sportsmanship.
Video evidence (WATCH in the tweet below) showed Lee appearing to clear the contents of his nose on to the face of Connacht flank Colby Fainga'a in the 64th minute of the game.
With regard to the offence, Lee accepted that he had cleared the contents of his nose on to the face of an opposing player, thereby committing an act of foul play.
The disciplinary committee comprising of Owain Rhys James (Chair), Richard Cole and Nigel Williams (all Wales) concluded that Lee had committed an intentional act of foul play.
The panel found: "The player's actions are an act of foul play. They have no place in the game. This is not a case of over-exuberance, or an act which is within the rules of the game going awry. It follows that by its nature this act is one that is deserving of punishment. It is contrary to the spirit of sport."
It was accepted that: "The effect on the victim player was understandably serious. There is no expectation, and there ought never be an expectation, that an opposing player would clear the contents of their nose onto an opponent."
Lee was handed a top-end ban of 26 weeks, which was reduced by half due to an admission of facts and his good disciplinary record.
In a press statement released by the Cheetahs late on Wednesday afternoon, the Bloemfontein franchise said they had been informed of punishment imposed on Lee for his "uncharacteristic behaviour".
"The unsportsmanlike behaviour is seen in a very serious light by rugby hierarchy. The Cheetahs condemn this behaviour which it is not part of the team culture and accept the punishment as such.
"Nico is a star player and according to information from the team, he deeply regrets his behaviour and apologised immediately after the match to the opponent.
"The Cheetahs realise that he is remorseful of his actions and the team accepts the apology."
The Cheetahs also posted a video on Twitter where Lee expresses regret over the incident:
The Cheetahs added that centre Benhard Janse van Rensburg will be joining them in Wales, ahead of the clash against Scarlets in Llanelli on Sunday (kick-off 15:00 SA time).
"The team management will be taking care of the situation in Cardiff, Wales," the statement concluded.