Bulls still fume at Mapoe card
Johannesburg - The Vodacom Bulls are still fuming at a yellow card that they believe was wrong, and which cost them not only momentum, but their Vodacom Super Rugby game against the Reds on Saturday.
According to the supersport.com website, the yellow card to wing Lionel Mapoe, which happened when Reds tighhthead prop James Slipper launched himself in the tackle and looked to dive over Mapoe, was the main difference between the two teams as the home side won 23-18.
That card, as well as the other yellow in the match to Jonno Lance of the Reds early on, and the poor refereeing performance of James Leckie has shifted the focus firmly onto the officials after a weekend of Super Rugby where officials dominated the headlines once again.
While there have been no tip-tackles in the first few rounds of the competition, suddenly there were three yellow cards for tip-tackles this weekend with officials bordering on being overzealous.
The Mapoe situation is a case in point, with the TMO called in to help the referee and also recommended a yellow card, when most would have agreed a penalty would have been sufficient. While referees are told to start at Red and work their way down, the very nature of the Mapoe tackle makes it an interesting discussion whether it was a tip tackle at all?
With the Bulls leading 15-13 at that stage, the Reds used their one-man advantage to score 10 points, stopping the Bulls momentum which had scored 9 points that half already and turning the game on its head.
While the Bulls are loathe to make public pronouncements on it, sources in the camp have indicated they were very unhappy with the way the match was handled, with Leckie earning absolutely no praise for his efforts with the whistle.
But considering Lance’s yellow card early in the game, which was also iffy, there was almost no option but to send Mapoe to the sinbin because of the overzealous way the officials handled the incident.
In the replays it can be seen that Slipper hits Mapoe, who is lower than him, and tries to launch himself over Mapoe’s shoulder, with momentum carrying him over and making the tackle hardly intentional nor malicious.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke didn’t want to spend too much time on the matter in public, but the normally reserved Ludeke did admit it was a “game-changer” and came at a critical time in the match.
“If you look at the incident in isolation, it looked as if the player tried to jump over Lionel,” Ludeke said, “and we felt it wasn’t a yellow card. But that’s now water under the bridge, not much we can do about it now.”
The Bulls will also be looking for more consistency in the breakdown and in policing the maul, something Leckie found was too much for him on the day.
But they will also realise that they had more than enough chances to win the game, and their inability to do so, was possibly due to their own team selections, and failure to grasp opportunities when it came their way.