x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Botha: 'I've let my country down'

The South Africa lock-forward has apologised to his teammates after being banned for his head-butt on New Zealand's Jimmy Cowan.

Bakkies Botha has been handed a nine-week ban.
Bakkies Botha has been handed a nine-week ban.

Bakkies Botha, the South Africa lock-forward, has apologised to his teammates after being banned for his head-butt on New Zealand's Jimmy Cowan. The incident occurred during the first minute of the All Blacks' comprehensive 32-12 victory over the world champions at Eden Park on Saturday but was missed by Alan Lewis, the match referee, and the rest of the officials.

But Botha was cited and banned for nine weeks by a judicial hearing in Auckland yesterday morning, meaning he will miss the rest of the Springboks' Tri Nations campaign. And the Bulls forward has expressed his remorse for his actions. "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." Botha was suspended yesterday after a hearing in Auckland. He is not eligible to play again until after September 4, the same date as South Africa's final Tri Nations match against Australia at Loftus Versfield Stadium.

Botha had been cited after the match for the incident which happened in a tackle after Cowan had tugged at Botha's jersey as both were chasing the ball. Television replays showed Botha appearing to pause after completing a tackle on Cowan before launching himself at the back of the scrum-half's head. Sanzar, the competition's ruling body, said Dennis Wheelahan, the judicial officer had deemed the offence to be in the middle range of seriousness, but had also considered Botha's record of past offences when deciding on the punishment.

Botha was suspended last year for two weeks for a dangerous charge on Adam Jones, the British & Irish Lions prop, and was handed an eight-week ban for "attacking the face" of Brendan Cannon, the Australia hooker, in 2003. Botha also received a four-week suspension during this year's Super 14 for recklessly charging into a ruck. Graham Henry, the All Blacks coach who was visibly angry at the incident with Cowan after the match, said he was not surprised at the length of the ban. "He's got a history," Henry said.

* Agencies