Wynne Gray: Botha ban shows up rotting sore in laws

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The Independent Online

Rugby is in a mess. The laws are asinine and the International Rugby Board runs the game without much clout.

They have had several annual meetings where they give new meaning to the phrase "I used to be indecisive, but now I ... ah ... um ... ah ..." and are reduced to making their mark and collecting their coin through quadrennial World Cup fees.

Consider the just-completed rousing series between the Lions and South Africa, where the final test was underpinned by selection nonsense and inanities uttered by Springbok coach Peter de Villiers as his players wore armbands and headgear emblazoned with Justice 4.

It was their protest against the fortnight's ban given to Bakkies Botha for his solitary charge into a ruck.

Botha was guilty of not binding on to any teammate before he clattered into prop Adam Jones and removed him from rugby for six months with shoulder damage.

For someone reputed to be a God-fearing man, Botha religiously damages rivals. Sometimes lawfully, at other times not. He is a menace and like most rugged forwards treads a fine line between dealing to his rivals and being sent to the cooler.

He has been guilty of serious misdemeanours in the past, but he has been hard done by with his latest ban.

The only reason Botha was suspended was because he damaged Jones. Had Botha's charge brought no harm, nothing would have occurred.

Earlier in the test, Lions No 8 Jamie Heaslip ploughed into the side of a ruck, not through the middle like Botha, and took out a Springbok. He was penalised but because there was no injury, that was it.

The breakdown laws remain a rotting sore in the sport.

Players are off their feet and go in at the side of rucks while the IRB laws allow the first tackler to play the ball with his hands. That tackler rarely lets the ball-carrier go before he attacks the possession. You watch that nonsense and are no wiser; you see incidents like the one involving Burger in every game.

The Boks were incensed Burger was banned for a fortnight and carried that protest on to the field for the final test.

They had a point, they wanted to emphasise their disgust to a global audience but conveniently forgot the obscene work from eye-gouger Schalk Burger in the previous test. If they really wanted justice, Burger should have been shelved for eight months rather than the eight-week ban he received.

This story was sourced from The New Zealand Herald.