Have officials turned a blind eye to Burger?
Johannesburg, Monday afternoon
Eye-gouging, along with biting, and kicking an opponent's head, has long been seen as one of rugby's three greatest sins.
So the outrage that has greeted the actions of Springboks flanker Schalk Burger against British and Irish Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald in Saturday's second Test comes as no surprise.
Nor does the general impression that Burger, who received an eight-week ban after a lengthy disciplinary hearing, has got off rather lightly.
The sense of injustice and disgust springs from not just the fact the Lions should have been playing against 14 men for 79 minutes, but that South Africa appear to have all but absolved the player of responsibility.
Springboks head coach Peter de Villiers provided further ammunition for those who believe he is fast becoming a joke figure with his comments about the incident at the post-match media conference.
While we are used to coaches defending their players to the hilt even when the evidence against them is damning, De Villiers subjected himself to open ridicule when he said he didn't believe Burger's actions even merited a card.
While rugby is a primitive sport in many respects and has long been associated with acts of violence on the field, De Villiers' view that "this is sport, this is what it is all about" sparked incredulity among his audience.
Having viewed the footage again, on Monday he maintained that Burger "did nothing on purpose" and that "he is an honourable man".
The first point is certainly open to question, the second an interesting slant.
Burger, for all his abrasiveness on the field, is by all accounts a popular, outgoing character off it, who has a good rapport with opposition players, with whom he enjoys socialising after a game.
But his reputation as a hard-but-fair player is now surely tarnished forever.
With the welter of TV cameras at major Test matches these days, and the likelihood of being caught, one wonders what was going through his head barely 30 seconds into the match in Pretoria.
Perhaps he wanted to test the veracity of the eve-of-match comments by Lions forwards coach Warren Gatland that the tourists 'would not take a backward step'.
The incident was unusual of its kind in that it was picked up by the officials straight away, and dealt with promptly, instead of retrospective action being taken when an incident is highlighted after a game.
Touch judge Bryce Lawrence did well in the first instance to even spot the incident out the corner of his eye in the aftermath of a first-minute ruck.
Replays showed Burger pulling Fitzgerald to the ground with his right arm round the Irishman's neck, before bringing his left arm round in front of his own face and directing his left middle finger towards Fitzgerald's eye area.
To this observer, the intent of Burger's actions appeared quite evident, and Lawrence appeared to agree. He was heard telling referee Christophe Berdos that there were "clearly fingers in the eye" before giving the Frenchman his recommendation: "I think it is at least a yellow card".
As an experienced referee, the question remains why if Lawrence was so sure of what he had seen, he did not more forcibly recommend a red card, rather than giving Berdos the easier option, in the opening moments of a major Test, of brandishing a yellow.
Citings can only be made if the match commissioner, in this case New Zealander Steve Hinds, considers offences serious enough to have demanded more than the punishment handed out by the referee.
Sometimes sentences are reduced on the basis that actions are deemed reckless rather than intentional, as was the case with Italy captain Sergio Parisse, who was also given an eight-week ban for gouging All Black lock Isaac Ross in Auckland on Saturday.
But no such mitigation was given by the judicial officer in the case of Burger, who was found guilty of 'making contact with the face in the eye area'.
His eight-week ban is certainly lenient if recent precedent in the northern hemisphere is anything to go by.
Four British or Irish international players have been banned for eye-gouging over the past two years.
The most recent was Munster flanker Alan Quinlan, who lost his place on this Lions tour after 'making contact with the eye area' of Leinster lock Leo Cullen in a Heineken Cup semi-final in May.
Quinlan received a 12-week ban, six less than Northampton's Ireland flanker Neil Best for 'making contact with the eye or eye area' of Wasps flanker James Haskell in a Premiership match last September.
Leicester's Fijian wing Seru Rabeni, who is now at Gloucester, was also banned for 14 weeks in April last year for gouging Saracens hooker Andy Kyriacou.
Another Northampton player, England hooker Dylan Hartley, received a six-month ban after being found guilty on two counts of gouging, also against Wasps, in April 2007, ruling him out of the World Cup later that year.
The Rugby Football Union's chief disciplinary officer, Judge Jeff Blackett, adjudicated in both the Best and Hartley cases, plus another recent incident on behalf of Heineken Cup organisers when Perpignan's Romanian hooker Marius Tincu was banned for 18 weeks after a match against Welsh region the Ospreys.
"Contact with an opponent's eye is a serious offence because of the vulnerability of the area and the risk of permanent injury," Blackett said. "It is often the result of an insidious act and is one of the most abhorred by rugby players."
Part of the problem, as Blackett explained in a newspaper interview at the end of last year, is that 'eye-gouging' is the emotive expression used for all cases, regardless of the actual severity of the offence.
"The offence is actually contact with the eyes and it ranges from a bit of roughing up, where someone rubs their hand in somebody's face, and inadvertently makes contact with the eye. That's at the bottom end.
"At the other end, you have the player who maliciously sticks a finger in somebody's eye. That's eye-gouging, and obviously there's a whole lot of offences in between.
"Whenever there's contact with the eye, people call it eye-gouging; sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't."
Blackett believes there is an "increased incidence" of contact with people's faces and eyes.
Other former players disagree, saying that it has always gone on, and that incidents would be noted and revenge taken later at an appropriate juncture.
Allegations have often surfaced after British teams have played French sides in recent seasons, with Harlequins and Saracens both complaining of eye-gouging after matches against Stade Francais and Bayonne respectively.
Certainly there appears to be something of a culture of "la fourchette" (the fork) in French rugby, if John Daniell's book Rugby Mercenary is to be believed.
Daniell, a New Zealander who played for England Schoolboys and was an Oxford University Blue, played in France from 1997 to 2006 with three clubs - Racing Club de Paris, Perpignan and Montpellier.
Now a journalist, Daniell describes in graphic detail the "the particularly unpleasant feeling of having a dirty fingernail scraping along the back wall of your eye socket".
"In 15 years of rugby New Zealand, I was eye-gouged twice and I remember feeling physically sick that anyone would stoop so low," he wrote. "Within the first month of being in France, I lost count of the number of times it happened...The only thing that matters is getting that bloody finger out of there. You try to hold onto the finger so you can see who the owner is."
Daniell stands out because he also freely admits he twice gouged opponents himself. When he apologised afterwards to one victim, Jean-Michael Gonzalez, the hooker merely shrugged and muttered "c'est le jeu" (that's the game).
It was only in 1999 that the first northern hemisphere player - Colomiers prop Richard Nones - was banned for gouging, receiving a 12-month ban.
But there have been other notable incidents down the years, one of the most blatant in the 1999 World Cup, when a photographer captured a gruesome image of Wales hooker Garin Jenkins having a finger inserted into his left eye against Argentina.
Pumas prop Roberto Grau was cleared of the incident because officials claimed they could not properly identify him, but Grau did receive a nine-week ban at the 2003 World Cup after raking his hand over the face of Ireland hooker Keith Wood.
Another Pumas prop, Mauricio Reggiardo, was also banned after the same match for putting two fingers in the eye of Ireland prop Reggie Corrigan.
While the attention afforded to Burger's crude and calculated act has detracted from a stupendous Test match, it does at least highlight that for all its latent violence, rugby does police itself when the boundaries it draws for itself are crossed.
That said, one former international I spoke to was adamant that it takes a particularly malevolent kind of player to transgress one of rugby's biggest taboos, as Burger did.
"I did a lot of things in my time on a rugby field, but I never even thought about doing that," he said. "Burger deserves everything he gets".
The only question now is whether he got enough.