South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins has apologised for comments from the Springbok camp that appeared to condone eye gouging.
Hoskins issued a statement on Monday night following heated exchanges between Springbok coach Peter de Villiers and the British & Irish media at an official press conference.
De Villiers, who has guided the Springboks to a 2-0 series lead over the British & Irish Lions, was repeatedly asked to give his views on the Schalk Burger suspension for gouging in last weekend’s second Test, but appeared to back the player rather than condemn the act.
This led to Hoskins issuing the following statement from the SARU president:
“We would like to apologise to the rugby community for the erroneous impression that acts of foul play are in any way condoned by South African rugby. That has never been the case and is not now, and we support strong action by rugby authorities when such acts occur.
“Rugby is a physical game and a hard game but it is a game that rightly prides itself on good sportsmanship and we as Saru categorically condemn any such action. Saru fully supports any action that the IRB feels appropriate to stamp out eye gouging in the game.”
De Villiers added to the statement:
“Eye-gouging is something that we as a team will never be part of. The same applies to biting, head-butting, spear tackling or any other foul play that doesn’t belong in the game.
“My comments on Saturday were based on what I know of Schalk Burger as a player and not on what occurred. It was never my intention to suggest that I condone foul play – that is the last thing I would ever do and I apologise for creating any other impression.”