Suspended Botha to miss Super 14 play-offs

2010-05-19 00:00

SPRINGBOK and Bulls lock Bakkies Botha’s reputation counted against him when he was yesterday suspended for four weeks for dangerous play in the opening minutes of the Super 14 game against the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday evening.

Botha, who returned to action only recently following an extended break following ankle surgery, will miss the Super 14 play-offs and the opening Tests against Wales (June 5) and France (June 12).

He appeared before Sanzar judicial officer Peter Ingwersen in Pretoria after being cited by Cape Town-based Freek Burger for dangerously and recklessly entering a ruck without using his arms or grasping a player.

Botha’s headlong charge caught the head of Gio Aplon. The Stormers wing, the smallest player on the field, had to receive on-field treatment before continuing.

The four-hour disciplinary hearing was held on Monday afternoon and the sentence was handed down yesterday when Ingwersen said that “Botha’s past record, the nature of the transgression” and the importance of the games he will miss were taken into account.

Botha, proud of his record as the enforcer in any team he represents, but with a long history of transgressions, was suspended for a similar offence against the British Lions last year. On that occasion it was widely accepted among the rugby fraternity that Botha was simply cleaning out at the ruck and Lions prop Adam Jones, who dislocated his shoulder in the incident, later defended the Bok lock and said he should never have been banned.

The Springboks also backed Botha and they, in turn, found themselves in hot water with the International Rugby Board when they wore white armbands in support of Botha in the third and final Test at Ellis Park.

While there was the expected reaction in Cape Town and Pretoria — an emotional outcry in one and anger at the severity of the sentence in the other — it did appear that Botha, leading with his head rather than clearing out with his shoulder, was culpable of dangerous play at Newlands.

What does remain a problem is the consistency of applying this law. Indeed, moments after Botha’s transgression, Stormers prop Wicus Blaauw attempted to clean out the same ruck without using his arms.

It was by no means certain that Botha, short of match fitness after his lengthy break, would have been selected for the Bulls’ semi-final team anyway. It was expected that the in-form Danie Rossouw would partner Victor Matfield in the second row against the Crusaders with Botha playing off the bench. Flip van der Merwe will now provide cover off the bench.

Still, Botha’s experience and physical presence will be missed by the Bulls squad in the semi-finals and, if they win, the final in Soweto.

The Bulls named their team yesterday and former Bok fullback Jaco van der Westhuyzen will start on the wing in place of the suspended Gerhard van den Heever while centre Jaco Pretorius returns from injury.

The team for Orlando Stadium contains 14 players who have won the Super 14 before. There are 14 changes to the team beaten by the Stormers at Newlands last Saturday.


Bulls team:

15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Jaco van der Westhuyzen, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.

Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Bees Roux, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Derick Kuün, 20 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 21 Stephan Dippenaar, 22 Pedrie Wannenburg.

Kick-off: 5 pm.

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