Botha out of Tri-Nations for headbutting All Blacks scrum-half

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The Independent Online

South Africa lock Bakkies Botha has apologised to his team-mates after being banned for his headbutt on New Zealand scrum-half Jimmy Cowan. The incident occurred during the All Blacks' comprehensive 32-12 victory over the world champions at Eden Park on Saturday but was missed by referee Alan Lewis.

Botha was cited and banned for nine weeks by a judicial hearing in Auckland yesterday, meaning he will miss the rest of the Tri Nations. The Bulls forward later expressed remorse for his actions.

"I sincerely regret the incident," Botha said. "I have let my team, my country and family down and I have done an injustice to the Springbok jersey and what it stands for.

"I apologise to Jimmy Cowan and the New Zealand rugby public for what happened. Rugby is a physical sport but it has to be played within the boundaries and spirit of the law.

"I truly regret my actions and will make sure that I put the extended time away from the game to positive use and return to playing with the right attitude."

South Africa's national teams' manager Andy Marinos spoke of the South African Rugby Union's (SARU) disappointment in Botha's actions.

"SARU views any incident of foul play in a very serious light. Bakkies remains an important player in Springbok rugby and I have discussed with him the extent of his actions and the implications it could have on the team, himself personally and his family," Marinos said.

The ban caps a terrible weekend for Peter de Villiers' side. The Springboks had been bullish about ending their miserable record at Eden Park, where they have not won since 1937, but they were simple brushed aside by a clinical New Zealand side who outscored the visitors by four tries to nil.