Botha butted out of Tri-Nations
July 11, 2010

South Africa lock Bakkies Botha will miss the rest of the Tri-Nations after being suspended for nine weeks for his head-butt on New Zealand scrum-half Jimmy Cowan in the first minute of his side's 32-12 opening loss on Saturday.

Match referee Alan Lewis missed the incident, although he sin-binned Botha for a professional foul around ten minutes later, but Botha was cited for striking with the head and his poor disciplinary record led to the lengthy ban. Botha ended up on Cowan's back after a tackle and then aggressively followed through with his head into the back of the No.9's.

Sanzar judicial officer Dennis Wheelahan handed down the punishment in Auckland on Sunday and said Botha admitted the charge, expressed remorse and had apologised to Cowan. Wheelahan said he deemed the offence to be in the middle range of seriousness, but he also took into account Botha's record for previous offending and specifically decided to rule out Botha from the rest of the Tri-Nations.

Botha has been suspended from all rugby up to and including September 4, the same date as the Springboks' final Tri-Nations test, against Australia at Bloemfontein. The Bulls player missed this year's Super 14 play-offs after being suspended for a month on a reckless charge, and he received a two-week ban for the same offence against the British & Irish Lions last year.

He also missed three weeks of last year's Super 14 for striking and in 2003 he was suspended for eight weeks after spitting at, biting and eye-gouging Australian hooker Brendan Cannon.

"I sincerely regret the incident," Botha said. "I have let my team, my country and family down and I have done an injustice to the Springbok jersey and what it stands for. I apologise to Jimmy Cowan and the New Zealand rugby public for what happened. Rugby is a physical sport but it has to be played within the boundaries and spirit of the law. I truly regret my actions and will make sure that I put the extended time away from the game to positive use and return to playing with the right attitude".

South Africa's national teams' manager Andy Marinos, spoke of the South African Rugby Union's disappointment at the actions of the 68-times capped forward. "SARU views any incident of foul play in a very serious light. Bakkies remains an important player in Springbok rugby and I have discussed with him the extent of his actions and the implications it could have on the team, himself personally and his family," Marinos said.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry said the length of the ban was warranted based on Botha's tainted record. "I'm not surprised. He's got a history. He's probably lucky he didn't get more than nine weeks."

Henry said Cowan did not appear to have suffered any ill-effects from the blow. "No, I don't think so," he said. "It was just one of those things that happens in a game which is not part of the game and has been dealt with correctly."

Henry also revealed three All Blacks players picked up injuries in the game. Utility Richard Kahui sustained a shoulder injury, which Henry reported was "not good", and will have scans in Wellington tomorrow. Wing Joe Rokocoko suffered a hamstring complaint and Cowan pulled up with an abdominal strain. No cover had been called in yet.


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