Burger and Botha both pick up bans


Lions Tour:Schalk Burger has received an eight-week ban after being found guilty of gouging British and Irish Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald.

Burger's Springboks team-mate Bakkies Botha is also out of the third Test at Ellis Park next Saturday after being suspended for two weeks following a dangerous charge on Lions prop Adam Jones.

Both incidents happened during South Africa's thrilling 28-25 victory over the Lions in Pretoria on Saturday.

Burger, who won his 50th cap and led South Africa on to the field, was yellow-carded by referee Christophe Berdos just 32 seconds into the game.

But match citing commissioner Steve Hinds then fingered him and Botha during the post-match 12-hour window, meaning an appearance before Canadian judicial officer Alan Hudson.

Burger is suspended until late August, meaning he will also be unavailable for the Springboks' first three Tri-Nations Tests, although he could feature in the final three.

The decision was announced just after 1am South Africa time, more than 13 hours after his hearing was scheduled to start.

Botha, meanwhile, will be absent until mid-July, but he will be available for South Africa's Tri-Nations opener against New Zealand in Bloemfontein late next month.

Lions head coach Ian McGeechan earlier voiced his displeasure over Burger's actions that left Ireland Grand Slam winner Fitzgerald requiring treatment to his eye before he was able to continue.

"I could never condone actions like that," said McGeechan. "I would hate to see those again.

"It should automatically be a red card, as I understand it."

McGeechan also hit back at comments from his Springboks counterpart Peter de Villiers.

He added: "I heard a quote (from de Villiers) that it might be part of the game. To me, that is never part of the game.

"I am very disappointed he (de Villiers) said that. I can't see that ever being part of the game. It certainly wouldn't be part of a game I want to be associated with."

Botha's challenge on Jones ended the Wales prop's afternoon - and his tour - at Loftus Versfeld. He underwent surgery on a dislocated shoulder in Pretoria last night.

On the field, South Africa's narrow win meant they avenged a 2-1 Test series defeat against the Lions 12 years ago.

And Springboks skipper John Smit described yesterday's encounter as "a proper Test match".

"The guys are delighted," said Smit.

"I don't think we have ever had a worse start to a Test match (South Africa trailed 10-0 after seven minutes), and it seemed like a tall task.

"There were some firm words at half-time - and some great words at full-time. It was close at the end, but I am delighted with the result.

"It does make it worthwhile. It is a special family to be part of at the moment. The guys really enjoy each others' company and enjoy playing for their country and doing things like this.

"It was colossal. The ante was upped from last week, which didn't quite live up to all the hype. This was a proper Test match - the intensity was at an all-time high."

Smit also saluted substitute Morne Steyn, whose long-range penalty with the game's final kick secured a thrilling victory.

"It was a big kick from Morne," added Smit. "You have to take your hat off to someone who takes that opportunity.

"He has a huge temperament, and to take it in only his second game for the Springboks was amazing.

"I was glad it was him who was taking that kick after seeing him do it in the Super 14."