Cheetahs centre Nico Lee could hardly explain what he described as an “act of stupidity” after he was banned for 13 weeks by the PRO14 authorities in Cardiff on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old Lee faced a disciplinary hearing following an action that was “against the spirit of good sportsmanship” during the match against Connacht in Ireland on Saturday.
Connacht won the game 25-17, and Lee was caught blowing out his nose into the face of flank Colby Fainga’a in the 64th minute.
The PRO14 body said that Lee “accepted that he had cleared the contents of his nose on to the face of an opposing player, thereby committing an act of foul play”.
“The Player’s actions are an act of foul play. They have no place in the game.
“This is not a case of over-exuberance, or an act which is within the rules of the game going awry. It follows that by its nature, this act is one that is deserving of punishment. It is contrary to the spirit of sport.
“The effect on the victim player was understandably serious. There is no expectation, and there ought never be an expectation, that an opposing player would clear the contents of their nose on to an opponent.”
Cheetahs player Nico Lee banned for 13 weeks after he "accepted that he had cleared the contents of his nose onto the face of an opposing player." pic.twitter.com/bpXRqT0L6l— Murray Kinsella (@Murray_Kinsella) February 20, 2019
Lee’s admission of facts, and his clean disciplinary record meant that the entry point of the offence was 26 weeks was reduced by 50 percent to 13.
That means he will miss the rest of the PRO14 tournament, as he will only be free to play on July 21.
“I would just like to start by apologising to Cheetah rugby, my teammates, the supporters and the Guinness PRO14. And everyone that believed in me, for my actions,” Lee said in a video on the Cheetahs Twitter account.
“That’s not the type of person or player I am. It was an act of stupidity. I would just like to say sorry, and apologise for everything.”
The Cheetahs added: “The unsportsmanlike behaviour is seen in a very serious light by rugby hierarchy. The Cheetahs condemn this behaviour, which it is not part of the team culture and accept the punishment as such.
“Nico is a star player, and according to information from the team, he deeply regrets his behaviour and apologised immediately after the match to the opponent.
“The Cheetahs realise that he is remorseful of his actions, and the team accepts the apology.”
Benhard Janse van Rensburg will replace Lee in the squad for Sunday’s clash against the Scarlets in Llanelli.@ashfakmohamed