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Page last updated at 18:22 GMT, Saturday, 4 July 2009 19:22 UK

Smit defends Botha protest stance

By Simon Austin
BBC Sport in Johannesburg

South Africa coach Peter de Villiers shows his support for Bakkies Botha
South Africa coach Peter de Villiers shows his support for Bakkies Botha

South Africa skipper John Smit defended his side's decision to wear white armbands supporting suspended team-mate Bakkies Botha during the third Test.

Botha is serving a two-week ban for "dangerously charging" into British and Irish Lions prop Adam Jones at a ruck during last weekend's second Test.

"The players were standing in solidarity with Bakkies on this issue," explained Smith.

"You can talk about distractions but I think we are beyond that."

Each member of South Africa's playing and coaching staff wore the armbands during Saturday's final Test at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, which the Lions won 28-9 to lose the series 2-1.

At the same time, the South African players' union released a statement explaining the decision.

If anything should be kept, the Lions should be kept

Springbok captain John Smit

"The Springbok players all feel for Bakkies because he will miss this memorable final Test against the Lions," it read.

"The players want to send a clear message that they require the IRB to have an urgent and serious relook at law 10.4 (which defines the offence Botha was charged with)."

Jones was forced off the field with a dislocated shoulder following Botha's charge and now faces six months out of action.

However, the Lions management insist they have no problem with the Springbok lock and believe he has been harshly treated.

Lions assistant coach Warren Gatland said: "From our point of view we don't have an issue with Bakkies.

"We thought it was a very tough decision on him. Adam Jones didn't have a problem with it and none of the Lions management had an issue with that clean out."

Lions coach Ian McGeechan later said he had no idea that the Springboks were planning such a protest and refused to make any further comment.

606: DEBATE
Hungerspurs

Smit admitted the defeat left him with "mixed emotions" as he lifted the trophy.

"If we had asked this group the day after the World Cup if they would take a 2-1 series win against the Lions, they would have all taken it," he said.

"Today the Lions were all over us in every department. They were better than us, they had more intensity and it was a well-deserved victory.

"It makes us appreciate the series victory all the more knowing we played a top Lions side.

"It is still one of the most prized things rugby has to offer.

"The toughness of game, the competitiveness of the series, how close it was.

"If anything should be kept, the Lions should be kept."

South Africa coach Peter de Villiers admitted his team had been beaten by a brilliant Lions side.

"We are grateful that we won the series," he said. "International rugby is like this. (The Lions) were very good on the day. I always said they were a brilliant Lions team."



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see also
South Africa 9-28 Lions
04 Jul 09 |  Rugby Union
McGeechan hails outstanding Lions
04 Jul 09 |  Rugby Union
SA v Lions photos
04 Jul 09 |  Rugby Union
Prop Jones set for six months out
04 Jul 09 |  Ospreys
Smit worried by Botha precedent
03 Jul 09 |  Rugby Union
Lions lose O'Driscoll for finale
30 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
SA's Burger handed eight-week ban
29 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
Battered Lions lose injured props
28 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
South Africa 28-25 Lions
27 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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