When rugby becomes THUGBY

By admin
16 July 2010

Other rugby-playing countries like to call South Africa’s players bullies, thugs even, as Bok fans recently found out again much to their chagrin during the first Tri-Nations Test of 2010.

Courtesy of New Zealand TV viewers around the world were treated to slow-motion replays of Bakkies Botha trying to head-butt Jimmy Cowan into the green grass of Eden Park, seemingly without provocation.

Shocking, yes. But the Kiwi broadcasters showed nothing of the underhanded incident that prompted Botha’s behaviour, not even a glimpse of Cowan hanging on to Botha’s gear as the Springbok iron-man tried to get to the ball.

All the same, when all is said and done Botha has played right into Bok critics’ hands. Even local fans are starting to say they’ve had enough of this half of the best lock duo in the world.

Are our players really the worst transgressors in an extremely physical sport in which tempers inevitably flare and it’s essential to have bruisers capable of messing with opponents’ concentration?

His behaviour was inexcusable, Botha says in a statement. “I have let down my team, country and family and done the Springbok jersey an injustice. I will use the time away positively and return to the game with the right attitude.”

He has been banned for nine weeks.

Analysts from New Zealand to Britain have weighed in with stern criticism. Rugby doesn’t have a violence problem, it has a “Botha problem”. He should have been banned for a year, the New Zealand Herald reported.

They do point to Danny Grewcock as possibly the “one worse offender in the modern era”. And a Welsh newspaper asks, “Is Botha the dirtiest player in rugby?

After Botha being suspended for the third time in about a year local fans have mixed feelings about Victor Matfield’s fellow lock.

“Bakkies Botha doesn’t belong in the Bok team” and “That’s rugby. If you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen! Leave Bakkies alone,” are some Facebook comments.

A hot debate is raging on Sport24 too. Comments include: if the ref had immediately pointed out Cowan’s professional foul at that stage we would have been three points ahead; Schalk Burger pulled himself together but we don’t need Botha in the Boks or the Bulls; Botha is a bully; emotions aside, many other teams also employ bullies effectively. And so on and so on.

Read more in YOU’s 22 July issue about what the experts say about the Botha debacle – and the enforcers and thugs who have made headlines before.

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