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Have officials turned a blind eye to Burger?

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Bryn Palmer | 16:12 UK time, Monday, 29 June 2009

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. Schalk Burger is yellow carded in the second Test

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.Munster flanker Alan Quilan missed the Lions tour after being handed a 12-week ban

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.


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  • Comment number 1.

    burger has escaped lightly, pdv has lost a lot of respect and would do well to clarify his comments before the end of the tour. whilst i agree rugby isn't ballet, there are still rules involved, and in this cases rules where clearly broken. it appears as though in the action of poking fitzgerald in the eye, burger has somehow acquired the luck of the irish, ironic some might say...

  • Comment number 2.

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  • Comment number 3.

    its not ironic, its merely coincidence. the act was terrible and to get away with it so lightly shows poor decisions by the officials, but we seen that throughout the game...

  • Comment number 4.

    I played rugby for a number of years and the foul play I detested the most was, in order:
    - Biting
    - Eye-gouging
    - Punching or 'interference' in the groin area

    I am glad Burger is banned, and wish he was banned for longer. I am a bit surprised as he always seemed a 'hard but fair' player in the past.

    I am surprised Sheridan was not penalised, cited or banned for his punch to Bekker's groin (check out u tube)

    PDV is a joke, and most SA supporters I know wish they could get rid of him as his comments are becoming more and more farcical. An embarrassment to a proud rugby nation.

  • Comment number 5.

    Tis obvious that refs in all sports are wimps and dont have the courage of their convictions
    8 weeks thats a joke I'd given him 1 yr to think about it
    The 'Lions' have been bullied on this tour so how about the refs assisting them instead of the 'Boks"

  • Comment number 6.

    Well, De Villiers has completely lost the respect of any self respecting rugby fan/player and Burger is definitely on his way.... The gouging (it was definitely a deliberate gouging) was actually hard to watch. What is the point??? When Burger had managed to pull the eye ball out what was he going to do with it?!?!

    This Lions tour has managed to produce two great spectacles, unfortunately both going against the Lions. In many ways it was just plain unlucky.... If Monye or Philips had scored or if BOD had saved himself from that massive hit and been there to tackle Fourie instead of O'gara.... oh yeah and the other injuries.

    All in all, it seems that when you are losing everything goes against you even if this Lions team is a truly classy, talented, passionate and brave team... Did we really expect Burger to get the lengthy ban that he deserved?! Remember Umanga/Mealuma?!?!?!

    Lastly, Bryce really should have insisted on a red card. end of.

  • Comment number 7.

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  • Comment number 8.

    I play rugby and was eye-gouged for the first time in my career last season. Having had the pleasure of someone elses finger in my eye socket, I cannot believe that Bryce Lawrence did not recommend the red card.

    I have always respected Schalk Burger as a great player and competitor, but he has sunk down to the lowest of the low.

    Eight weeks is a disgrace. Will someone have to lose their sight in an eye before the IRB decide to try and stamp this out.

    ps. Pieter De Villiers - Resign, you are a joke to international management. South Africa would be even better without this idiot incharge.

  • Comment number 9.

    What PDV seems to be saying is that if we cannot accept that gouging another player's eyes is 'part & parcel' of the game, then we should try ballet instead!!
    He says these are the players he will always select - what a joke.
    I think the S.African rugby authorities need to distance themselves from such comments and get PDV as far away from coaching as is possible, before we start seeing this kind of tactic on school rugby pitches. Otherwise, S.Africa should be left to 'play with themselves' again, just like they did a couple of decades back.

  • Comment number 10.

    Gentlemen Vs thugs is more appropriate - getting convincingly stuffed in the scrum so botha runs in and takes out Adam Jones off the ball - theres a term for that: Coward.

  • Comment number 11.

    Sadly, as a Springbok supporter, I'll always remember Schalk as an eye gouger, and not for his rugby playing skills - just one ill advised action can ruin a reputation.I've also watched the footage carefully and cannot support the coaches' comments, which quite frankly are disgraceful!

  • Comment number 12.

    I agree that Bryce Lawrence did well to see the incident, but see it he did, so since when has Eye-gouging been "at least a yellow". He knew that it should have been straight red didn't have the guts to make the call so early in the game. My feeling is that if the same incident would have happened after 60 minutes then he would told the ref striaght red, no question. It did have a huge baring on the match but thats sport, calls go against you and you just have to accept it happens from time to time.

    However, this is where the citing commision comes into it. Berger should be serving a 6 month ban AT THE VERY LEAST. If the RFU are serious about about stopping Gouging then the bans must be much longer. In Europe the bans seem more realsitic but if the RFU wants to be taken seriously then they should step in, re evaluate the findings and hand out a much tougher ban.

  • Comment number 13.

    PDV doesnt care simply because he was talking from a position of strength ie The Saffers won the match. If they had lost, he would have needed a scape goat. Burger was lucky and his act was cowardly. Wouldnt say it to his face mind..

  • Comment number 14.

    What this does is send a message to young rugby players that eye-gouging is not as serious as it truly is. I, like others have been gauged during a match... the worst, most unsporting thing someone can do on the pitch...

    But what more can we expect from the South Africans... players who make 'card' gestures to the ref as if they were a footballers.

  • Comment number 15.

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  • Comment number 16.

    A player who in a few years time might have been able to look back on his career safe in the knowledge that he was respected throughout the rugby world, will now know that through a large part of the rugby fraternity he will now be remembered first and foremost as a coward and a dirty cheat.

  • Comment number 17.

    I most certainly would apply the same to my team, but those incidents are as a result of gutless acts commited earlier on that had gone unpunished by the referee and if the officials cannot enforce the laws against the cowardly attempts to intimidate the Lions then, the players are enevitably going to take matters into their own hands - botha wasn't enjoying being bossed around in the forward battle, had a hissy fit and lashed out when he had the oppurtunity knowing that the referee lacked the courage to enforce the laws - he went in recklessly and dislocated a mans shoulder, thats Grevious Bodily Harm in anyones view, and certainly cannot be defended.

    As for Burger, if the referee had again done his job then this wouldn't be an issue.

  • Comment number 18.

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  • Comment number 19.

    Its annoying that he got away with that during the game but its too late to change it now. As for the ban, well 8 weeks is a joke compared to some of the cases outlined above.

    And to jump to BODs defence I dont think he was all there when he made that tackle, pretty sure it was his head that broke Jenkins' cheekbone minutes earlier. His tackle was more of a man who was seeing birds! Kind of like a hug at running speed lol

  • Comment number 20.

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  • Comment number 21.

    OK DaveParade, I've got it. All the foul play on both sides was the Boks fault. Thanks for clearing that up. Next time we'll suggest Danie Rossouw doesn't bother warming up or coming onto the field as any GBH he suffers will be deserved.

    Bakkies still wasn't going in "off the ball" as you said earlier, and he got two weeks for going in recklessly. Sheridan should have got the same at least.

  • Comment number 22.

    Ever since rugby brought in the yellow card, I was concerned that it could be used as a 'cop out,' and this is yet another case in point. Violent conduct, especially in the professional era, is indefensible, enough said. The sooner referees, under instruction, stop letting professionals get away with this behaviour, and start brandishing more red cards, I am sure that these incidents will reduce, and rugby will be the better for it. By the way has anyone heard that lunatic of a South African coach speak about it? Unbelievable - he needs to be brought to book for such outragous comments.

  • Comment number 23.

    I fail to see why any of this has come as a surprise to people. It has been obvious from the start of the tour as it was in 1997 that the primary aim of the Boks has been to maim to get rid of the players who they consider to be the biggest threat to their aim of winning the Test series. Does anyone remember the Mpumalanga match in '97? Peter de Villiers is a disgrace to rugby and after his comments should not be allowed to coach. Rugby has always been a hard game but I have always thought it was a fair game but after this weekend performance by the Boks I think they should hang their heads in shame.......!!

  • Comment number 24.

    Several points arise relating to the ballet comment:
    Guys do not wear tutu's: not even in South Africa.
    Male ballet dancers are however very strong and athletic coupled with great technique and determination.
    Would they gouge, of course not.
    They are professionals who have been trained for many years to excel at their chosen path in life. I speak as the parent of a ballet dancer.
    Uncontrolled animals may do what PDV deems to be appropriate but thank god that it is only a tiny minority of thugs in sport and they must be weeded out soonest.
    Whilst coaches condone then pockets of morons will always exist.

  • Comment number 25.

    The only chance the Lions err, sorry the pussycats ever had of winning the match was against 14men - just the way you like it

    Remember Twickers when poooorrr little Jonny W got bumped and went down like a footballer = RED card

    Swings and roundabouts fellas - take the rough with the smooth

    Personally I prefer to beat the English or the Lions by a narrow margin - makes their pain even more apparent in the whinging that follows - hahahaha - just like the RWC Final - yes, you're still saying it was a try DESPITE the evidence to the contrary!

    So close YET so far

    I feel your pain and I LOVE it!

  • Comment number 26.

    No Saffavescent, thats not quite what I'm saying - though surely you can be man enough to conceed that SA set the precedent which the referee then failled to control resulting in many off the ball incidents on both sides.

    What would be your reaction if you were playing against opposition that were free to do as they please and trying to continuously injur you and your team mates - theres only so much that you can tolerate and if your being let down by the guidelines that are there to enforce fair play and erradicate the foul, then you need to act. Either that or just just be bullied by the yellow bellied team taking any oppurtunity for a cheap shot to cause physical harm.

  • Comment number 27.

    Taranfen....."but after this weekend performance by the Boks I think they should hang their heads in shame.......!!"

    No, Burger only. They (the Boks) played well and scored 3 tries to 1 and once again, keep a balanced view. The Lions were'nt exactly angels either, which you seem to conveniently overlook.

  • Comment number 28.

    Anyone defending Burger, Parise, Quinlan or any other player who resorts to eye-gouging is condoning one professional sportsman attempting to permanently maim another player.

    No room for it in any sport.

    De Villiers is saying it's ok for his team to blind the opposition to gain an advantage and that is just plain evil. If the SA board back his comments they are a disgrace, if they don't his position is untenable.

  • Comment number 29.

    Credit to the South African rugby team. Your victory is even more impressive as you have a complete idiot for a coach.

  • Comment number 30.

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  • Comment number 31.

    Put them in jail. Why on earth would you not?

  • Comment number 32.

    DP: It's unfortunate that there were injuries, to players I respect, but some of these were self-inflicted, eg: Jenkins on Habana's head during the double-tackle with BOD, BOD on DR. Burger is a disgrace which we all agree with.

    Whatever was going on I would still not punch someone in the groin, and if I did I would expect to be punished. The difference is we condemn Burger and accept the Bakkies penalty, while the BIL supporters praise Sheridan and BOD, while complaining about the Boks.

  • Comment number 33.

    Good article on gouging Bryn.

    Do you know if any player at first class or international level has received a red card for gouging?

    It would be interesting to know why Schalk has committed such a deplorable act. He has always been a hard player but never gone for the eyes. And in his 50th cap game??

    Bakkies Botha's citing is worrying because you could easily count hundreds of similar (and worse) ruck clearing efforts on this tour which have been accepted as hard but fair. Do you think it is because of the damage done? and indeed to a superb player?

    Bryn, how do you feel about Sheridan's blow to Bekker's private parts? Is this to be excused when gouging and rucking gets punished? Once again, why did Sheridan do it? We don't really know him that way.

    BOD's head high shoulder charge was possibly the most dangerous of all (to himself also), and the fact that it was from an offside position and not expected by Rossouw. This could have resulted in a brain haemorrhage! How can Bakkie's challenge go punished and not this one?

    On a positive note, I know both teams and rugby cultures have tremendous respect for one another and that does lead to some fascinating rugby. I hope the new shape of Springbok rugby and those in positions of leadership, respect that ( I could have crawled under the bed when I heard PDV comment on Schalk). These are things we have to deal with on our side, so please understand our position as well. We are positive that a balance will be reached sooner rather than later.

    Will the Springboks ever play a less physical, uncompromising game? Is it wise to boast beforehand on how one is going to 'smash' the Boks? Perhaps better to find a different way to beat them. Can and has been done.

    Well played to the Lions thus far and Congrats to the Boks!

  • Comment number 34.

    It's very hard to keep a balanced view in light of such atrocious cowardice - some of those players were as yellow as the 'buttercup' embalzoned on their jerseys.

    We were physicaly superior in the contact and the scrum to which SA had not answer.

    Unfortunately, the IRB's leniancy has set a precedent in the wrong manner, as the indication to impressionable proffesionals is that if you attempt to blind someone you get a 2 month holliday, and 2 weeks for dislocating a mans shoulder, but thats ok, because he was 'clearing out a ruck'.

  • Comment number 35.

    He definitley should have been sent off! An eye gouge is a straight red card. Usually the ref or lines men don't see eye gouging and it is picked up after the game when the player complains. I will say in Burgers defense that when oyu play sport you have high arousal. This means you build up yuor adrenalin before the game and you do stupid things. It was out of order though and he got what he deserved!

  • Comment number 36.

    Ha,ha,ha,ha,ha! PdeV - "this is sport, this is what it is all about". Ha,ha,ha,ha,ha. I wonder if anyone at SARU has yet got around to impressing on numpty and his goons just how much money he and all their stupid, locker-room BS are now doomed to cost south african rugby over the next few years - players, clubs and supporters alike? You wouldn't have thought it would be possible to invent a scenario more damaging to the reputation of rugby played in RSA than the Kamp Staalraad farce but they have managed it. Laugh out loud? Weep more like.

  • Comment number 37.

    There is absolutely no doubt that Burger has got away very lightly for what he did. He knew exactly what he was doing and the failure of both the officials to adequately punish him and his coach to condemn his actions speak volumes. It doesn't matter whether it was in the first 30 seconds or the last 30 seconds - that is a red card by any form of sense and de Villiers' comments are nothing short of a disgrace either. We knew the South Africans would want revenge for 97, but the fact they were so clearly prepared to go to such depths to help secure it is a stain on an apparently great rugby nation.

  • Comment number 38.

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  • Comment number 39.

    You know the plot is lost when the loss of this test is placed on one incident. Rugby, like a number of other sports has to be governed by the referee, citing players after the incident is simply a complete waste of time and only fuels he dedate further. The game I saw was completely different to that reported, I saw a game lost, by the ability to allow a comeback and the misguided run of play in the last minute.

    As my children commonly state, 'Build a bridge, get over it'

  • Comment number 40.

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  • Comment number 41.

    Joost1e - you are much mistaken.

    I think most of the Lions supporters feel much pride rather than pain, in that 5 weeks we can put together a scratch side to push the world champions all the way.

    You are probably too young to understand.

    Congratulations to South Africa on a hard fought win

  • Comment number 42.

    Any deliberate act of violence should draw a year's ban. Then rugby would become the fabulous, skilful game it deserves to be.

  • Comment number 43.

    From his coments, it sounds like De Villiers has really lost the plot
    His credibility as an international coach must surely be in question.
    If SA carry on with dirty tactics, and these are condoned, then no other nation will want to play them .

  • Comment number 44.

    There is a trait in sport where referees dont administer the rules because it happened too early in the game, its as though there is a reluctance to "spoil" the game for the TV by sending guys off in the 1st minute. My advice to any thugs, do your dirty work be it eye gouging or a double footed tackle in football early on, the ref will get the flak for spoiling the game if he sends you off.

    How many times have you heard commentators say that someone would either have got a card or been sent off but for the incident happening so early in a match.

    Refs have got to remember that they are there for 2 purposes, to apply the laws and to protect the safety of the players and that applies whether it is the first 1 minute or the last.

  • Comment number 45.

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  • Comment number 46.

    The Schalk Burger incident was regretable and marred what was a spectacular rugby game.
    However, due proces was followed: The referee, appointed by the IRB,and vetted by his peers as competent enough to manage a game at this level judged it to be a yellow card offence. Later the citing commission, after hearing all the evidence imposed an 8 week ban. End of story.
    Issues: (1)By now the IRB should have a table of offences and a tariff of sanctions in place. All the touch judge had to say was "eye gouging" and the ref would know what to do.(2) Why did the enquiry take so long? Why was the sentance "Light". Could it be that Burger was retailiating to a previous foul? e.g.
    interferance in the groin area? Sadly this hysteria from UK fans is something those down under have become accustomed to. Always, the UK plays it by the rules and everyone else is the agressor. Judging by the number of times the Boks were reacting to incidents in the heat of battle I do not think the Lions were tickling them with feathers or pinching their bottoms.

  • Comment number 47.

    Only way you could gain parity in the physical contest was when it went uncontested.

    I could see the whole SA pack shuddering in fear as they realised they were undone and their beloved scrumaging was smashed to pieces.

    Maybe because botha and burger lacked a back cone that the scrum collapsed so, so easily.

  • Comment number 48.

    Burger's behaviour was bad but I can kind of of accept that this sort of thing will sometimes get done by hyped up players who lose their cool. His ban is lenient but at least the game has dealt with it.
    However PDV's reaction was outrageous and I think SARU should take action against any couch who expresses these views. Coaches have a responsibility to acknowledge transgressions and be contrite in these circumstances. He's condoning this thuggery,that is totally unacceptable and brings the game into disrepute.

  • Comment number 49.

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  • Comment number 50.

    1st TEST:
    Punch on Habana, no citing or yellow card. Late tackle, no arms against Fourie du Preez, no yellow card, no citing. Well done to the Lions for getting aways with that and cheering inthe pub when you committed these fouls. No comments from the B&I supporters about these incidents even when invited to comment on them :)

    2nd TEST
    No arms charge on Rossouw resulting in injury. B&I Lions supporters laughing in the pub where i was watching the game and the fact that Rossouw could not stand. No complaints from the supporters there. Punch in by Sherdia on Bekker, again supporters thought this was funny. None of these incidetns resulted in a citing or yellow card.

    As a South African, i am disgusted by Burger and he deserves what he gets.

    Any as for the comments about the Lions dominating all the scrums and contact areas, please watch the game again.....nothing like Vickery popping out how many time? :)

    Point is, don't just judge the Saffers, the Lions are no angels and should also have been punished for a number of offences. At finally, I recall all this we are going to take the Boks on physically and 99 crap, perhaps you should have come up with a different strategy. Before youg uys left for South Africa, this was all you guys could talk about on here and Sky News. Oh and 99 was a myth....perhaps you should listen to what WJM had to say about it.

  • Comment number 51.

    Burger should have received a longer ban and the officials concerned, banned from international duty for two years or more.
    The feeble punishment meted by the IRB will be interpreted as sanctioning dangerous play by thugs of all nations that exploit the rules in this way.

  • Comment number 52.

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  • Comment number 53.

    Whilst the majority of people would agree that eye gouging is wrong and doesn't belong in the sport, may I draw your attention to the affect this had, not only on the player, but the team. In the Lions game, if the referee had applied the appropriate law, then Burger would have been red carded - potentially putting the series open at 1-1.

    By failing to deliver the appropriate punishment, referee Christophe Berdos cost the players, the staff and the supporters the opportunity to enjoy an unbelievable final game. The IRB need to rectify inconsistent refereeing now - or it will begin to affect the game - not only in player satisfaction & viewing numbers, but in cold, hard cash!

    What about sending decisions that could result in a red card to the TMO? This would allow a better interpretation of the offence and allow the TMO to refer to the laws of the game for the appropriate punishment?!

  • Comment number 54.

    No 47.... what are you smoking pal? Must be some good stuff :) Shuddering in fear, and smashed to pieces......i only recall 5 Lions going to hospital, never mind no backbone, just broken bones.

  • Comment number 55.

    Joost1e - please do not try to excuse Burger's actions. We should all condemn them.

  • Comment number 56.

    While Schalk rightly got suspended for a few seconds of absolute madness, calling the Boks thugs while turning a blind eye to many of the Lions incidences really is ridiculous.

    In a "highly" competitive series like this, generally played in an amazing spirit by all 5 nations (and supporters), taking cheap shots at the whole team sort of nullifies the whole experience for me.

  • Comment number 57.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 58.

    Considering that Seru Rabeni got 14 weeks for 'assumed intent to gouge', with no evidence of him actually doing anything, (just an assumption that he had intended to) I think Burger has got off very lightly indeed.

    But then having said that, at least he was cited unlike the atrocity committed by two Kiwis on Brian O'Driscoll on the last tour.

  • Comment number 59.

    Joost1e, please refrain from your baiting comments. You are perpetuating the image we are gaining (thanks to WUMs like you) that we are ungracious winners.

    To the objective rugby fans reading this...I believe you will go a long way to find a Bok fan who condones what Burger did. 8 weeks is not enough.
    As for PdV, he's renowned for only opening his mouth to change feet. His inability to at least acknowledge that what Burger did was shameful is inexcusable.
    He has been called up to explain his comments to SARU, so let's hope he can go some ways to regaining a semblance of credibilty for himself and SA rugby.

    P44cka & wel5hexile...well said, and credit to your team who have shown great determination and courage, and have made the last two tests of the best I've seen (apart from the Burger incident).

    Here's looking forward to what will hopefully be another great test on Saturday

  • Comment number 60.

    Burger deserved far more than he recieved.

    2nd test we destroyed SA in the scrum, and that is not an exageration, which is why the offence on Adam Jones leads me to believe that it was pre-meditated as you simply had no answer to it, and no body on the bench to make a difference.

    Turnover conceeded - B&I Lions 11

    SA - 16.


    Simply because we had the physical superiority on the day, and you poor chaps could do nothing about it but employ dirty gutless tactics.

  • Comment number 61.

    I understand spear tackling was properly outlawed after a load of players damaged their necks and backs.

    Anyone know of stats on eye damage from gouging? The assumption is that it is very very dangerous play, so I'd be intrested to know just how dangerous it is.

    Well done to the springboks, you were better than us, so you won (no wingeing from this pom ;-)) - but I hope you get a new coach that can represent your great nation as you deserve.

  • Comment number 62.

    When the "officials" and the "rulers" show some backbone and actually ban the scumbags who commit these cowardly acts for a year for Gouging then it may stop. Until then it's just a talking point and allows a way of causing bodily harm by the more inadequate of these pathetic sportsmen.

  • Comment number 63.

    Bring back rucking !

  • Comment number 64.

    Smoking? It must be you that is halucinating or you clearly weren't watching the same game on Saturday - rest assured that there is no exaggeration in that statement.

    You seem to be as deluded as PDV and even worse, condoning your countrymens actions by gloating about the fact that one player had to go to hospital after he was hit late and required surgery.

    Is this acceptable?

    If this is your view, I'm afraid that puts you squarely in the same category as the cowardly duo of bota and burger.

  • Comment number 65.

    Burger will look back on his gouging and feel ashamed. You can hear the conversation, " Daddy, did you play against the Lions back in 09 ?" " Yes kids, but...."
    He can start on the road to put it right with an apology and an honest appraisal of his action, but I don't think he has the character to do it.
    The coach de Villiers needs to be bought to book by the IRB. His comments totally outside the game that we all love.

    8 weeks, should be 8 months.

  • Comment number 66.

    A red card should have been the least Coward Burger received. Probably at least a 6 month ban. De Villiers said he didn't mean it. Really, so he just accidentally had his fingers in somebody's eyes. Of course he did.........

    ..he should face action as well, for breathtaking stupidity.

    How 'small-time' are South Africa?

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 68.

    Can I point out that, this same weekend, an Italian player was also banned 8 weeks for eye gouging against an All Black player. Without in any way condoning eye gouging, I just wonder why it is that this case barely registers as a point of interest amongst people here, whilst the Lions case has become such a frenzied outpouring of disgust?

    Personally I think, once a ban has been issued, all these responses are nothing more than the usual whinging that has almost become synonymous with Lions tours these days.

  • Comment number 69.

    Shalk 'ooh I'll scratch yer eyes out' Burger is fine example of the brave and tough SA Rugby players!!??
    What a shame that his reckless and clownishly stupid action has overshadowed a 'colossal' and in most respects wonderful game of Rugby football. As for De Vilers, he has shown a complete lack of moral courage, judgement and integrity by effectively condoning Burger-Van's schoolboy behaviour. Where do you draw the line? Why not send out the teams armed with pick axe handles would seem to be his argument, ie anything goes in so far as his warped view of the game of Rugby is concerned. Shameful.

  • Comment number 70.

    64.... I have made it clear that I don't condone violence and will be glad to see Burger never playing for South Africa again. And if you think I am alone in feeling this way, rest assured, so are most South African rugby supporters. We DON'T support thuggery, contrary to popular belief. My comments was out of frustration that this argument is so one sided and the Lions supporters are blind to their own teams indiscretions.

  • Comment number 71.

    Saffavescent, I'm sure Bekker would be very touched at your concern for his groin. Unfortunately I was watching the ball rather than staring at players groins so I missed the incident. No chance of significant damage though, the way the boks played the match demonstrated that the entire team has no balls.

  • Comment number 72.

    I think most South African rugby fans will condemn both Burger & Sheridan's un-sportsmanship actions. The way the media carries on about this does make it seem as if the Lions are a bunch of moaning sissies - it's as shameful to be such bad losers as the unlawful actions themselves. Get over the 1 minute of unfortunate incidents - accept your loss with a bit more dignity.

  • Comment number 73.

    Wales are the 7's world Champions

  • Comment number 74.

    Sorry that should be the 7's World Cup Winners.

  • Comment number 75.

    1) You do coke, harming nobody but yourself, and you get banned for 2 years. You must then self flagelate in interviews saying what a terrible perosn you are.

    2) Gouge an eye and get 8 weeks. No comment

    Hmmmmm......anyone else see a problem here?!

  • Comment number 76.

    Well the debate rages on! And why is that? Some guys determined to defend the indefensible, thats why. PDV has rather let the cat out of the bag huh....he condones the "whatever it takes" attitude, including the odd eye gouge, or dislocated shoulder. He has lost all credibility!
    By the way, I would like to thank some of the sensible people from SA who are obviously real rugby fans and have expressed regret about what has happened. There are a few players, one coach, a few fans and bloggers who should take a good look at themselves in the mirror...

  • Comment number 77.

    Do you remember when that SA prop Johan Le Roux bit Sean Fitzpartick's ear in 1994?

    There was outrage and he was given a 18 month ban!

    Kevin Yates got 6 months for biting on Simon Fenn's ear in 1998.

    Where's the comparable sentence for gouging?

    Richard Loe did get 6 months for eye gouging Greg Cooper back in 1992, in a Waikato v Otago game.

    Seems like we are going backwards!

  • Comment number 78.


    I agree. if the Welsh and Irish think last week was bad then they better buckle up!

    Granted, Burger's actions "looked" dangerous and deliberate (and probably where, but things are sometimes not what they seem). Maybe lets wait for his take on things before we crucify him.

    It's very very hard to take this article seriously (the article, not eye-gouging and other offences mentioned) because, again, it seems like another instance of the British media trying to deflect attention for their team's inadequacies. And to say Schalk's not receiving a red card cost them the game (Phillips, among others): Should we take that to mean that the Lions believe they had no chance of beating a full Bok team? Yes we should.

  • Comment number 79.

    Martin Johnson was one of the dirtiest players that ever lived YET a hero to the people on this blog who continue to whinge

    The offence was committed - Burger has been punished - moveon will ya!

    Stop the bleating
    You got smashed two weeks in a row
    Worst still, you blew the 2nd Test after gaining a commanding lead
    The Lions absolutely blew it
    No one to blame but themselves

    Get over Burger - concentrate on how you can IMPROVE

    Burger didn;t cost you the Test - you lost it
    And even when a draw looked likely O'Gara decided to take a man out in the air - game over

    Soundly soundly BEATEN - AGAIN!
    As you will be this Saturday - AGAIN!
    Not good enough

    End of!

  • Comment number 80. i said, one sided and blind.

  • Comment number 81.

    Er Dave - do your research buddy

    Sth Africa clinched it at Twickers a couple of weeks ago


    That's why we so enjoy seeing English claret on the pitch

    Looking forward to the Ashes - yet more misery unless of course your Sth African batsman KP can win it for you - AGAIN!

  • Comment number 82.

    My my my, what a lovely article. Unfortunately a lot of people will recognise it for the propoganda it is. You can argue that it was not done on purpse, the same cannot be said for the cheap groin shot, or the tackle without arms by the lions players. Still, at the end of the day SARFU and the Lions board are loving this, more free publicity to get more people to watch the third test.

    In another couple of weeks no-one will even remember this Lions tour and the majority of whingers on this site will be complaining about the football or thinking up some other excuse after the Aussies win the ashes. But at least now they have stopped fighting amongst themselves for a while (English, Irish, Welsh and Scottish) so you owe us that much.

  • Comment number 83.

    Yes, Sheridan should have been cited. Given the 8 week ban for Burger, and the fact that no harm was done I would ban him a proportional ban: 33 minutes.

    Also, I hear that PDV offered to represent Sheridan at the hearing if he was cited with an "it's not ballet" defense.

  • Comment number 84.

    Usual sour grapes from the Brits when it comes to sport in general! Poor from Burger but people forget O'Driscoll's tackle which was hardly exemplary!

  • Comment number 85.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 86.


    Richard Loe got 9 months for gouging Cooper

    Worst still - he broke Paul Carozza's jaw in a Test vs Australia in plain view of everyone while Carozza lay on his back on the ground having just scored a try

    Sentance - absolutely NOTHING!

  • Comment number 87.

    Joost1e. You're not by any chance related to de Villiers are you? I detect much confusion within you, young one.

  • Comment number 88.

    I'm not blind in my assesment or one sided, but I won't stand back and be objective if I feel that there are certain members who are unfortunately your compatriots, being inglorious and ungracious in victory - I am not being a sore looser in anyway I'm big enough to take the defeat.

    My gripe was with the officiating being cowardly, but I did get drawn into slanging match because I feel that the retrospective punishment was insufficent, and that mocking the injury of players in a sport this physical when there is no other intent but to cause injury is unacceptable, and a gutless act itself.

    I certainly don't condone it - all I have offered is the reasoning behind why some of the B&I Lions conducted themselves in that manner and that again was as a result of poor officiating once the tone had been set, and if the referee had quashed it then none of these incidendts would have occured.

    Burger would have been off, the precedent would have been set, and there would be far less off the ball incidents which marred a great game of rugby.

  • Comment number 89.

    no 85, i am disappointed that you have never met a nice South African. Have personally not been too fond of the poms myself. we are direct yes and say it as it is. not as devious and underhand as you lot.

  • Comment number 90.

    That ban is a disgrace. How can someone like Alan Quinlan get 12 weeks and Burger only get 8? He should not only have been sent off, he should also have got banned for at least 6 months.

  • Comment number 91.

    @ Ruck_Maker

    If I've never seen an attention seeking post.....From the bitterness in your post I'd guess you're 40, have always been the smallest kid in class, played 5th team rugby (position: water boy), and never got the love you thought you deserved. Am I close???? Steroids...LOL, have you never heard of drug tests? I give you a 9.5 on my patented DIV-ometer.

  • Comment number 92.

    No 88, ......Peace. Let's hope Saturday's game is a victory for rugby and its supporters. I have attended many internationals involving South Africa in the UK and even when we have lost, i always congratulate the opposition supporters and join in for a drink. Hopefully this weekend will be no different. And yes, as a South African supporter, we are not helped by this idiot coach PDV we have but if we say too much it will be considered as racist so we have to put up with him. I can honestly say though that since he took over from Jake White the bok disipline has been sliding. I have even e-mailed the South African Rugby Union to this effect yesterday and needless to say, won't get a response. Jake would never have aloud these things to happen.

  • Comment number 93.

    I have met plenty of decent SA and work with one who is a great bloke and someone who I respect........

    One thing that I don't do 89, is tar everyone with the same brush.

    I would appreciate the same courtesy - the opinion of one does not constitute the whole, so please direct them at the person who has rattled you, not the collective.

  • Comment number 94.

    A deliberate attempt to permanently maim an opponent on a sports field should draw the same punishment as someone pushing a glass in someone's face in a bar... actually as there is no alcohol involved in the former, the punishment should be worse.

    As for de Villiers... 1st he should be made to look at how Iain Robertson took Graham Henry to task over spear tackles... then he should be sacked...

  • Comment number 95.

  • Comment number 96.

    Yeah, no worries ctmanbok, wrote my last comment with a bit of haste and just trying to keep the topic on rugby and this particular incident so appologies if it seemed a bit hasty.

    I have heared that the politics in SA rugby are very delicate to say the least from my friend JJ - but how PDV can make those statements re the mechanic / car and expect to get away with it is ridiculous.

    Hopefully he'll read this and get the hint - PDV engage brain before opening mouth.

  • Comment number 97.

    1. Most important Burger was crazy - dont know what he was thinking and got what he deserved.

    2. Botha's citing was pathetic he was CLEARING Jones out of the ruck as he did to Kay in the world cup (check out the 2 clips and tell me what the differnce is - NO DIFFERENCE)

    3. BOD the saint having a swipe at Du Plessis and sending Roussow off (people in glass houses shoudnt throw stones). What Du Plessis should have done is give him a proper smack for starting it!

    4. The Lions team and 80% of the supporters and saying that SA are thugs - hahahaha look at your own team boys they no angels I can promise you.


  • Comment number 98.

    CTmanbok, thanks for your comments. This is what rugby should be about, hard fair competition, strictly refereed to prevent gratuitous violence. And some real cameraderie between opposing fans, united in the love of the game. Nothing to do with ballet or tutus, or slagging guys off.
    Not sure whether all this is at all possible after all thats happened, there is badfeeling all round, but with two offenders not playing next sat, and maybe just maybe a ref who can actually control a game....who knows?

  • Comment number 99.

    No 93.... Thank you for the response. Your comment came over as if you have never any any nice South African and that rattled me. That was the reason for my comment. So if i misunderstood your comment, then sincere apologies. I don;t honestly feel that way about the Poms....considering that half my family are Poms, including my son!

  • Comment number 100.,25883,16024_5406164,00.html

    This makes for quite an interesting read........ PDV Gold!


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