x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Coach defends banned Burger

Peter de Villiers defends Schalk Burger after the Springbok was handed an eight-week ban for an eye gouge attack.

The South Africa coach Peter de Villiers has defended Schalk Burger after the flanker was handed an eight-week ban for an eye gouge attack on British & Irish Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald. During Saturday's Second Test in Johannesburg, an unsighted Christophe Berdos, the match referee, took the advice of his linesman and yellow-carded Burger for the incident, which happened as both players fell out of a rolling maul after only 32secs of the match.

With match officials mentioning the clash in their report, Burger's fate was sealed by a post-game disciplinary committee. With the Springboks yet to decide on whether to appeal against Burger's two-month ban - a spell which would see the player miss the final Lions test, as well as the southern hemisphere side's first three Tri-Nations clashes - de Villiers delivered an impassioned rebuttal to those saying Burger was lucky to have escaped a lengthier ban for the attack.

"He is an honourable man," said the Boks coach. "I have watched the television footage, and I am still convinced that nothing he did was on purpose. He never meant to go to anyone's eye, and we will now wait for the full report." De Villiers' staunch defence of Burger is in stark contrast to that of Lions head coach Ian McGeechan. "I could never condone actions like that," he said. "It should automatically be a red card, as I understand it."

McGeechan was also swift to counter de Villiers' insistence that Burger was innocent. "I heard a quote [from de Villiers] that it might be part of the game," he said. "That is never part of the game. It wouldn't be part of a game I want to be associated with." South Africa's triumph in the Second Test was marred by several high-profile incidents, including the Boks lock Bakkies Botha's dangerous charge on Lions prop Adam Jones, which left the Welshman nursing a dislocated shoulder that required surgery.

The disciplinary panel handed Botha a two-week ban. South Africa's problems do not end there. The back row forward Danie Rossouw is being monitored after taking a heavy bang to the head following a collision with Brian O'Driscoll, while Botha's prospective replacement, Andres Bekker, is nursing a knee injury. emegson@thenational.ae