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Page last updated at 09:44 GMT, Friday, 3 July 2009 10:44 UK

Burger denies being 'rugby thug'

Shalk Burger
Burger says he never meant to act illegally against the Lions

Schalk Burger has insisted he is not a "rugby thug" after being banned for eight weeks for a gouging incident.

The South Africa flanker was found guilty of "making contact with the eye area" of Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald in the second Test last Saturday.

"I am not a rugby thug and will never intentionally engage in any eye-gouging or similar action," he said.

The 26-year-old, who stopped short of apologising to Fitzgerald, will miss Saturday's third Test in Johannesburg.

The judicial officer who dealt with Burger's case, Alan Hudson, cleared him of the specific charge of eye-gouging as determined by the International Rugby Board, but found him guilty of committing an act contrary to good sportsmanship.

Cardiff Taffy

"I have always approached the game with the intention of only playing it hard and fair," said Burger, who only received a yellow card for the offence during the game.

"This was also the case in the second Test against the Lions. I am therefore grateful the judicial officer confirmed my stance with his conclusion that there was no deliberate eye-gouging.

"As a proud South African and Springbok rugby player, I only have the utmost respect for the traditions of the wonderful game of rugby.

"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 was absent for the first 10 minutes of the second Test."

Despite calling Burger's actions "reckless" Hudson accepted that the South African had not acted intentionally.

"I am unable to conclude that there was eye-gouging in the sense of a ripping or aggressive intrusion of the eye area," added Hudson.

South Africa coach Peter de Villiers came in for widespread criticism after initially claiming Burger had nothing wrong in Pretoria, before apologising for giving the impression he condoned foul play.

World champions South Africa take an unassailable 2-0 lead into the third and final Test at Ellis Park.

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see also
Lions Test debuts for English duo
02 Jul 09 |  Rugby Union
Gouging penalties to be reviewed
02 Jul 09 |  Rugby Union
Smit worried by Botha precedent
03 Jul 09 |  Rugby Union
O'Driscoll criticises De Villiers
30 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
Boks coach backs down over Burger
29 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
SA's Burger handed eight-week ban
29 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
Burger 'gouge' angers Fitzgerald
27 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
South Africa 28-25 Lions
27 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
Hook receives surprise Lions call
23 May 09 |  Rugby Union

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