DUNEDIN // The South African hooker Bismarck du Plessis has been banned for three weeks for careless conduct during Saturday's 30-28 Tri Nations victory over New Zealand. Du Plessis was cited by match officials after he appeared to make contact with the eye area of All Blacks flanker Adam Thomson in the 11th minute of the first half. However, he was cleared of charges that he eye gouged Thomson, with SANZAR (South Africa, New Zealand and Australian rugby) judicial officer Kim Garling ruling the contact was careless and not deliberate.
Du Plessis admitted his fist had come into contact with Thomson's lower cheek but did not come into contact with the eye itself. Television footage confirmed that there was no visible mark to the face of Thomson. Garling concluded that the contact was careless and not deliberate and therefore the punishment should be at the lower end of the scale. The suspension means Du Plessis will miss the Test against Australia in Perth on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the injured South Africa captain John Smit has been ruled out of the rest of the Tri Nations campaign, the Springboks said in a statement. * Reuters