'I'm no thug' insists Burger

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The Independent Online

South Africa forward Schalk Burger has reacted to his eight-week suspension by insisting: "I am not a rugby thug."

Burger will miss Saturday's Test series finale against the British and Irish Lions at Ellis Park after being banned following a first-minute incident during South Africa's 28-25 win in Pretoria last weekend.



He was found guilty of making contact with the face in the eye area of Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald, but received only a yellow card.



Despite issuing a statement, though, he has not publicly apologised either to Fitzgerald or the Lions.



Burger was cited for the offence and then found guilty, landing a suspension that also sidelines him for South Africa's opening three Tri-Nations Tests this summer.



Canadian judicial officer Alan Hudson, who heard the Burger case, said he did not find the player's actions intentional, but he did believe them to be "clearly reckless".



And Hudson added 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".



In deciding on the length of ban - which was lower than many people expected - Hudson took into account Burger's previous disciplinary record, his character and the player's remorse.



Burger said: "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 10 minutes of the second Test. I look forward to returning with zest in due course."



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