Bulls fiasco: Refs ‘lack balls’
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Testicular resolve, or at least
a perceived lack thereof, was a dominant theme of angry reaction in South
Africa to the Bulls’ controversial bundling out of Super Rugby playoffs
contention at the hands of the Rebels in Melbourne on Saturday.
The team from Pretoria, admittedly looking
less and less these days like the three-time champions they are, were banished
to 2015 obscurity in a deeply controversial 21-20 reverse, which leaves them
playing only for crumbs of pride when they entertain the Cheetahs in the final
round of ordinary season at Loftus next weekend.
This latest heartbreak stretched their
winless run overseas to an abject 11 matches as Frans Ludeke’s charges
experienced a second successive four-game programme abroad as losers every time - their last victory was in the first assignment of the distant 2013 tour,
nudging out the Blues 28-21.
That statistic, as much as anything else,
tells you plenty about the tactical and determination-related shortcomings that
have crept with increasing vigour into the Loftus corral like a winter rising
damp: even a lot of Bulls diehards will be questioning whether the once-fruitful
Ludeke regime has any further shelf life.
The blunt truth is that even if the Bulls
had won the latest fixture, and justice from officialdom had prevailed - perhaps
simultaneously keeping their top-six aspirations hanging by a fraying thread -
they continued to look one-dimensional, erratic and disorganised and highly
unlikely to advance meaningfully toward a fourth title.
Yet they also totally warrant the wave of
national sympathy that has accompanied the television match official decision
which quite possibly robbed them of an overdue triumph over the similarly
Early in the critical fourth quarter, with
the scoreboard already reading what turned out to be the final outcome,
strongly-built Bulls inside centre Burger Odendaal crashed over the line for
what looked at least 90 percent like a thoroughly legitimate touchdown with
little hint of improper control of the ball or a compelling Rebels defensive
hand beneath it.
Referee Nick Briant of New Zealand probably
could have justified awarding it there and then, although he opted to take it
“upstairs” ... crucially, however, without asking the pertinent question: “Is
there any reason not to award the try?”
Instead he effectively empowered the Aussie
TMO, Ian Smith, to make the important judgment, and somehow the official found
grounds to suggest there was enough doubt to rule it out - despite replays only
appearing to confirm to most viewers that the try was fine.
The latest furore follows earlier
flashpoints this season in which SA teams undergoing the demanding Australasian
trek have been diddled by incompetence either with the whistle or in TMO
On one such occasion SANZAR even felt
obliged to downgrade Aussie referee, Rohan Hoffmann.
There was real fury over the latest booboo,
with neutral SuperSport analyst and former All Blacks coach John Mitchell saying:
“I give up; referees should grow some ... and overpower a (wrong) TMO
Former Springbok and Stormers wing Breyton
Paulse chimed in: “This is unacceptable, unprofessional ... it has spoilt my
Saturday. That possibly cost the Bulls a playoffs spot.”
Returning to the testicular theme, Bok
front-ranker of the 1990s Keith Andrews (@KeithKandrews) tweeted: “Refs appear
to have no balls to make the calls! Who’s in charge? The lawmakers?”
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing