No support for banned Bakkies

2010-07-12 00:00

BYE bye, Bakkies.

The abrasive Springbok lock Bakkies Botha will miss the rest of the Tri-Nations after being suspended for nine weeks after a disciplinary hearing in Auckland yesterday.

The 2,01 metre, 118 kg Bulls forward, who regards himself as the enforcer in the Springbok pack, will not be able to play until after September 4, when South Africa play their final Tri-Nations international against Australia in Bloemfontein.

A blatant headbutt on All Black scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan in the opening minutes of Saturday’s Test at Eden Park — missed by the match officials, but picked up by the television cameras — resulted in Botha being cited, and yesterday he was suspended by Sanzar judicial officer Dennis Wheelahan.

The incident took place moments after Cowan had grabbed Botha’s jersey and pulled him back as both chased a loose ball.

Botha tackled Cowan as he collected the ball, hesitated and then butted the back of the scrumhalf’s head.

Wheelahan said the offence was in the middle range of seriousness, but had also considered the South African’s record of past offences when deciding on the suspension.

A contrite Botha pleaded guilty to the charge, expressed remorse and apologised to Cowan.

Botha said he was devastated, but accepted that he had acted outside the laws of rugby.

“I sincerely regret the incident,” Botha said from Auckland last night. “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.”

The SA Rugby Union manager Andy Marinos also expressed his disappointment.

“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.

Botha has a long history of disciplinary problems.

Back in 2003 he was handed an eight-week ban for “attacking the face” of Wallabies’ hooker Brendan Cannon and, in 2009, a three-match suspension for striking Phil Waugh in a Super 14 match.

During this year’s Super 14 he was found guilty of dangerous play when he crashed, head-first, into Gio Aplon in the Super 14 game against the Stormers on May 15 and was banned for four weeks.

He was controversially suspended for two weeks last year for clearing out British Lions prop Adam Jones at a ruck in the second Test at Loftus and was strongly supported by his Bok team-mates, who wore white armbands in protest in the next international.

But this time he has no support and Springbok captain John Smit, to his credit, harshly criticised his friend and team-mate.

“It was very silly. I don’t approve of any of my players playing outside the rules. Only Bakkies can explain what goes on in his head,” Smit said.

Angry All Black coach Graham Henry told reporters that everyone had seen what had happened and “so go to it” (write about the incident).

He was not surprised at the length of the ban.

“Bakkies has got a history. He’s probably lucky he didn’t get more than nine weeks,” Henry said. “It was just one of those things that happens which is not part of the game and has been dealt with correctly.”

New Zealand won the game 32-12, scoring four tries in their victory and picking up a bonus point for their efforts.

It was a black day for the Boks, who now move on to Wellington for the second Test … without Bakkies, who returns to South Africa today.

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