Burger breaks silence over ban
July 2, 2009
Burger was sin-binned for the incident at Loftus Versfeld © Getty Images
South Africa flanker Schalk Burger has broken his silence over his eight-week ban for gouging British & Irish Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald, insisting that he is not a "rugby thug".
Burger's actions in the opening minute of the second Test against the Lions at Loftus Versfeld earned him a trip to the sin-bin, with myriad voices criticising the leniency of this decision from referee Christophe Berdos and his assistant Bryce Lawrence. The incident has cast a shadow over the final week of the Lions tour, a shadow made all the more imposing by the media storm whipped up by Springboks coach Peter de Villiers.
Burger was let off a longer ban by judicial officer Alan Hudson who said that he was "unable to conclude" any eye-gouging on Burger's part, although he said contact with Fitzgerald's left eye could not be described as "insignificant". He will be out of action until late August - ruling him out of the Springboks' opening three Tri-Nations Tests.
"As a proud South African and Springbok rugby player, I only have the utmost respect for the traditions of the wonderful game of rugby," said Burger, who is yet to apologise to Fitzgerald directly. "Through my life and career I have always approached the game with the intention only of playing it hard and fair.
"I am not a rugby thug and will never intentionally engage in eye-gouging or similar illegal actions. This was also the case in the second Test against the Lions. I am therefore grateful that the judicial officer confirmed my stance with his conclusion that there was no deliberate eye-gouging as charged by the citing official.
"I will always play the game as hard as possible within the rules. I apologise to my supporters and fellow team-mates for the fact that I have been absent for the first 10 minutes of the second Test. I look forward to returning with zest in due course."
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Top 14, Super Rugby and the Aviva Premiership with fireworks and monsters both featuring
Firdose Moonda looks at the moves towards greater integration within South African rugby ... and what the future holds
It is 100 years this week since the last international match played in Europe before the outbreak of World War One. Rewind remembers the fixture's longest-living survivor
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14