Botha apologises for Cowan head-butt

SOUTH AFRICA lock Bakkies Botha has apologised to his team-mates after being banned for his head-butt on New Zealand scrum-half Jimmy Cowan.

The incident occurred during the first minute of the All Blacks’ comprehensive 32-12 victory over the world champions at Eden Park on Saturday but was missed by referee Alan Lewis.

But Botha was cited and banned for nine weeks by a judicial hearing in Auckland yesterday, meaning he will miss the rest of the Tri Nations.

And the Bulls forward has expressed his remorse for his actions.

“I sincerely regret the incident,” Botha said. “I have let my team, my country and family down and I have done an injustice to the Springbok jersey and what it stands for.

“I apologise to Jimmy Cowan and the New Zealand rugby public for what happened. Rugby is a physical sport but it has to be played within the boundaries and spirit of the law.

“I truly regret my actions and will make sure that I put the extended time away from the game to positive use and return to playing with the right attitude.”

South Africa’s national team manager Andy Marinos, spoke of the South African Rugby Union’s disappointment at the actions of the 68-times capped forward.

“SARU views any incident of foul play in a very serious light. Bakkies remains an important player in Springbok rugby and I have discussed with him the extent of his actions and the implications it could have on the team, himself personally and his family,” former Wales centre Marinos said.

The ban caps a terrible weekend for Peter de Villiers’ side. The Springboks had been bullish about ending their miserable record at Eden Park, where they have not won since 1937, but they were simple brushed aside by a clinical New Zealand side who outscored the visitors by four tries to nil as Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Kieran Read and Tony Woodcock crossed to secure a bonus point of the All Blacks.

Despite Botha’s apology, New Zealand coach Graham Henry believes the 30-year-old can consider himself lucky not to have received a longer suspension for his moment of madness.

“I’m not surprised,” Henry said of the suspension.

“He’s probably lucky he didn’t get more than nine weeks. It’s not part of the game and it has been dealt with correctly.”

But Henry was delighted by his side’s performance.

“We expected to play well, but 32-12 is a wow,” Henry said.

“We’re surprised by the magnitude of the result. I’m sure things will be more realistic next week.

“We’ll look at what the Springboks brought to the game that we didn’t think they were going to bring. We’ll get our feet back on the ground and see what alterations we need to make.

“They’ll be a wounded animal next week, and they’ll play accordingly. They’re a quality side with bright players and they’re well coached. They’ll improve immensely, so it will be a more difficult game (in Wellington).”

The two sides will meet again at the Westpac Stadium on Saturday.

NEW ZEALAND: M Muliaina; C Jane, C Smith, M Nonu, J Rokocoko; D Carter, J Cowan; T Woodcock, K Mealamu, O Franks; B Thorn, T Donnelly; J Kaino, R McCaw (capt), K Read.

Replacements: R Kahui for Rokocoko (58), P Weepu for Cowan (54), C Flynn for Mealamu (78), B Franks for O Franks (64), S Whitelock for Donnelly (72), L Messam for Kaino (72).

SOUTH AFRICA: Z Kirchner; J de Villiers, J Fourie, W Oliver, B Habana; M Steyn, R Januarie; G Steenkamp, J Smit (capt), J du Plessis; V Matfield, B Botha; S Burger, F Louw, P Spies.

Replacements: B James for Steyn (72), R Pienaar for Januarie (75), C Ralepelle for Smit (72), BJ Botha for du Plessis (59), A Bekker for Louw (52).

Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)

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