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SA Rugby issue Burger report
Scrum.com
July 3, 2009

The South African Rugby Union (SARU) has made public the findings of IRB judicial officer Alan Hudson relating to the eight-week ban meted out to flanker Schalk Burger.

Burger was banned for making contact with the eyes of British & Irish Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald in the second Test at Loftus Versfeld last Saturday - a ban that has caused shockwaves in the rugby community after Springbok coach Peter de Villiers defended his actions and was subsequently forced in to an apology by SARU officials. Burger was sin-binned for the incident and subsequently cited

"Given the significant amount of coverage this incident has caused, SA Rugby wishes to place on record the findings from the disciplinary hearing of Springbok flanker Schalk Burger," read the statement. "Media should note the Judicial Officer specifically cleared Burger of eye gouging but found him guilty of committing an act contrary to good sportsmanship by making contact with the face in the eye area of Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald in the first minute of the second Test of the 2009 Lions Series.

"SA Rugby reaffirms its opposition to any form of foul play, including eye gouging, and supports any strong action taken by the authorities to ensure its eradication from the game."

Burger has also issued an apology to fans and team-mates, but is yet to apologise to Fitzgerald directly.

The findings of the judicial officer:

  • I do not find this to be an intentional act on the part of Burger. I accept Burger's evidence that he did not intend to make contact with the eye area of Lions No 11.

  • In my view his actions were clearly reckless. That is he knew or should have known that there was a risk that his actions could result in an act of foul play - that is contact with the eye area of Lions No 11.

  • While there was no significant injury to the eye of Lions No 11, the contact could not be described as simply trivial. It is clear on the report of the Lions doctor that there was initially redness and swelling about the left eyelid and there was some short lived tearing and blurred vision.

  • I am unable to conclude that there was eye gouging in the sense of a ripping or aggressive intrusion of the eye area, but I do conclude that there was contact in the left eye area which while not serious in the result, cannot be described as insignificant.

  • Contact with an opponent's eye area is a serious matter because of the vulnerability of the human eye and the potential of a permanent injury to one of the key sensory organs of the body.

In the release Hudson marks Burger's transgression on the lower end of the scale - carrying a sanction of 12 weeks - but goes on to give the reasons why he reduced this minimum ban to eight weeks.

  • Burger is clearly a fine rugby player with fifty test caps and many national and international accolades.

  • I have heard a great deal of Burger's fine character off the field. I accept the evidence of Mr (Arthob) Petersen, manager of the Springboks and Mr (Dick) Muir, assistant Springbok coach in this regard.

  • Burger's record is quite good for a player of his experience. Importantly he has never been disciplined for any offence related to the face of any player.

  • Burger expressed remorse for these events at the hearing and conducted himself appropriately throughout the hearing.

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