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Page last updated at 20:07 GMT, Saturday, 27 June 2009 21:07 UK

Burger 'gouge' angers Fitzgerald

By Simon Austin
BBC Sport in Pretoria

Schalk Burger and referee Christophe Berdos
Burger is given a yellow card by referee Christophe Berdos

British and Irish Lions winger Luke Fitzgerald believes South African flanker Schalk Burger should have been sent off for gouging his eyes.

Burger received a yellow card at the start of the second Test but could face a lengthy ban after being cited.

Fitzgerald told BBC Sport: "I went into the ruck, got cleaned out and felt a hand going for my eyes.

"Given the seriousness of the allegations... you would have to say it was probably a red card."

Lions skipper Paul O'Connell said he had heard touch judge Bryce Lawrence tell referee Christophe Berdos "something like 'minimum yellow card'," after the incident.

And Fitzgerald said: "If the touch judge said that then I'm pretty surprised it wasn't a red card.


"So early in the game they (the referees) are often reluctant to give a red card."

The 21-year-old, who had come into the side in place of Ugo Monye, said it was the first time he had been gouged and still seemed shocked by what had happened.

"I don't really remember any other circumstances where that's happened if I'm honest with you," he said.

"I was lucky I had my hands free and was able to stop him doing any damage."

The Leinster player, who has won 12 caps for Ireland, tried to give the player and referee the benefit of the doubt though.

"At the end of the day the ref did a pretty good job, it was pretty intense with 50,000 fans screaming and shouting," he said.

"And he (Burger) is a world-class player and I'm sure he is not a dirty player.

"I don't think anyone goes out to do any damage. At the end of the day this is a player's career and it's a very sensitive area he's accused of messing around with."

Burger faces a disciplinary hearing at Loftus Versfeld on Sunday after being cited for making contact with the eyes of an opponent.

And Fitzgerald added: "There are so many more cameras these days that it's surprising players take that risk.

"They are messing around with their own livelihoods as well and the penalties are very severe if you are caught."

Burger, who had led the Boks onto the pitch in Pretoria on the occasion of his 50th cap, was making his comeback after missing the first Test because of injury.

South Africa coach Peter de Villiers said not only should Burger not have been sent off but he should not have been shown a card of any colour.

"I don't think it should have been a card at all," De Villiers said.

"For me and for everybody, this is sport. This is what it is all about. This is great if everything is clear cut in this environment we are in we shouldn't try to prepare even.

"What people think and what people say to us is their opinion and we honour their opinion but it doesn't mean we all agree with it."

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see also
SA's Burger handed eight-week ban
29 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
McGeechan saddened by Lions loss
28 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
South Africa 28-25 Lions
27 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
South Africa v Lions photos
27 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
SA v Lions 2nd Test as it happened
27 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
Emerging Springboks 13-13 Lions
23 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
South Africa 26-21 Lions
20 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
Lions squad selector
07 May 09 |  Rugby Union
2009 Lions: Squad & results
09 Jul 09 |  Rugby Union

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