Schalk Burger says it was never his intention to gouge the eye area of Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald.
Burger received an eight-week ban for what was perceived to be an act of eye-gouging on Saturday, but the judiciary that made the ruling confirmed this was not the case. Burger was found guilty of committing an act contrary to good sportsmanship by making contact with Fitzgerald’s face.
In a statement, Burger said he is not a dirty player.
‘As a proud South African and Springbok rugby player I only have the utmost respect for the traditions of the wonderful game of rugby. 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 ten minutes of the second test. I look forward to returning with zest in due course.’
The judicial officer said Burger was reckless, but there was no intent to gouge Fitzgerald’s eye. The fact that there was no injury to the Lions wing’s eye did not influence the ruling in any way.
In conclusion, contact was made with the eye area and, whether intentional or not, this could not be ignored.
The fact that Burger showed remorse counted in his favour.