AUCKLAND, July 11- South African lock Bakkies Botha was Sunday banned from rugby for nine weeks for headbutting All Blacks halfback Jimmy Cowan in the opening clash of this year's Tri-Nations tournament.The ban runs up to and including September 4, the day the Springboks play their last match in this year’s Tri-Nations, meaning Botha will take no further part in the title defence.
The 68-Test veteran was cited for striking the back of Cowan’s head in the opening minute of the All Blacks’ 32-12 win in Saturday’s Test.
The incident was apparently not seen by match officials and happened after Cowan had pulled on Botha’s jersey as he chased loose ball.
Botha admitted the charge, expressed remorse and apologised to Cowan, who was not hurt by the headbutt.
SANZAR (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia Rugby) judicial officer Dennis Wheelahan ruled the offence was in the middle range of seriousness, but he also took into account Botha’s previous record.
The Bulls lock had just returned to rugby after serving a four-match suspension for a reckless charge which kept him out of this year’s Super 14 play-offs.
He received a two-week ban for the same offence against the British and Irish Lions last year when he also missed three weeks of Super 14 play for striking.
In 2003 he was suspended for eight weeks after allegedly spitting at, biting and eye-gouging Australian hooker Brendan Cannon.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry said he was not surprised at the nine-week ban given Botha’s history.
"He’s probably lucky he didn’t get more than nine weeks," Henry said