The International Rugby Board (IRB) has confirmed that it is investigating the sudden withdrawal of Sharks hooker Skipper Badenhorst from the Namibian national team ahead of next month's World Cup in France.
Badenhorst was on Thursday named in the Sharks team to play the Golden Lions in a crucial Absa Currie Cup match in Durban on Saturday, despite the ongoing investigation.
Greg Thomas, the IRB's Head of Communications, said on Thursday that the IRB's legal council had been instructed to "expedite" the investigation because it has since become a matter of urgency.
Christo Alexander, the Namibian Rugby Union (NRU) CEO, confirmed on Wednesday that he had approached the IRB, after the South African Rugby Union (SARU) informed them (the NRU) that South Africa would not be taking any steps against Badenhorst, or the Sharks.
Thomas, while confirming that they will were looking into the matter, would not put a time-frame on when they would have a possible result.
"Once we have the facts at hand, we will take the appropriate action... as we see fit," Thomas told this website.
"If we do deem him to have withdrawn from the Namibian World Cup squad without a valid reason, he will not be allowed to play any rugby till 10 days after the World Cup," he said, confirming that the matter was being looked into under Regulation 9.4.
He said the matter would have to be resolved before the World Cup gets underway next Friday, September 7.
However, Thomas was reluctant to comment on the legality of Badenhorst's selection for Saturday's Currie Cup fixture.
"Technically he shouldn't be playing, but we're still investigating the matter and will make a ruling as soon as possible," Thomas said.
The absence of Badenhorst from the Namibia squad is the latest in a long list of club/province-versus-country incidents that have rocked World Cup tournaments.
At the 2003 World Cup in Australia, Samoa had to do without the services several top European-based players, including Wasps hooker Trevor Leota and Leicester Tigers loose forward Henry Tuilagi. Other players missing from the event included Epi Taione of Tonga and Newcastle, George Harder of Samoa and Harlequins, Tongan utility back Josh Taumalolo (of Harlequins) and Cardiff's Canadian flanker Dan Baugh.
Badenhorst withdrew from the Namibian team last Friday, citing "family reasons".
The Sharks have defended themselves against suggestions that they have placed undue pressure on Badenhorst to make himself available for domestic rugby and forego the opportunity to play in the World Cup.
The Sharks have lost two top hookers to the World Cup, as John Smit and Bismarck du Plessis are both in the Springbok squad bound for France.
Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl said that they were awaiting word from the IRB.
Van Zyl said the Namibia Rugby Union had approached the Sharks some time ago for help, to allow powerhouse prop Kees Lensing to go to the World Cup.
"However, we then suddenly saw that Badenhorst was called up for the [IRB Nations Cup] tournament in Romania," Van Zyl told this website.
"He [Badenhorst] informed team management, at very short notice, in writing that he was going to Romania.
"However, I have to point out that his decision to withdraw from the World Cup was purely that of the player. There was no pressure from the Sharks," Van Zyl said.
The Namibian CEO, Alexander, on Wednesday admitted that whilst he has "no proof", he has "strong suspicions" that Badenhorst's withdrawal has to do with more than just family reasons.
By Jan de Koning 365 Digital