Pretoria - The Bulls have accused the Melbourne Rebels of “faking injuries” to slow down the game and opted to lay a complaint at Super Rugby governing body SANZAAR over the Australian side's tactics.
The Bulls won their match against the Rebels 28-10 but coach John Mitchell complained afterwards about the tactics of the Rebels to slow the game down deliberately.
On Monday, after reviewing the footage of the game, Mitchell went a step further, saying the Rebels made a strategic decision to fake injuries in order to slow down play to a virtual standstill.
According to the supersport.com website, the Bulls believe that the governing body needs to take a stand against such negative tactics.
Rebels coach Dave Wessels admitted after the match that his side tried to slow down the game, and defended his side’s actions, saying their only priority was to win the game, not to entertain.
But Mitchell clearly believes that the “product” - in this case the ethos of Super Rugby - is under threat if coaches deliberately use such tactics.
Mitchell pointed to players “faking injuries” in the game to stop the momentum and while the Bulls wanted to speed up play, they were often frustrated by a team that simply didn’t want to play.
“I have taken the issue to SANZAAR. I think it was close to 87 seconds the average stop to start. There was something like over 24 stoppages... we will hear tomorrow (Tuesday) from SANZAAR about the future of that development,” Mitchell said.
“Hopefully common sense prevails and we don’t get players faking injuries and doctors controlling the speed of the game. Clearly the law states that player welfare or safety is foremost, but when it is faked on a frequent basis, which is kind of pre-meditated with the call, then it is not where the game should be heading.
“So hopefully SANZAAR see the common sense in that area. As I said earlier over the weekend, I’m not sure it will be good for the product if that continues.”
SANZAAR has not yet commented on the complaint but Mitchell is hoping they issue a directive to referees and teams that these sorts of tactics are simply not on.
Mitchell pointed to the way that Glen Jackson handled the Sharks-Stormers game on the weekend as the way referees can nip it in the bud.
In contrast referee Ben O’Keeffe, who handled the Bulls v Rebels match, took a back seat when he should have acted decisively and as a result the game was ruined as a spectacle for spectators.
“You can just move them on quickly, Glen Jackson was brilliant on the weekend. The Sharks tried to do something similar but it happened a couple of times and he just said 'play on'. Let’s get on with it, move the guy to the sideline and let’s get going. It’s pretty simple, if the guy’s neck is not in trouble, then move him to the sideline and play on,” Mitchell explained.
Asked if slowing down the game wasn’t a “legitimate tactic” in the game, Mitchell pointed out that the Rebels had a habit of falling away at the death and said he didn’t see the Highlanders reverting to the same strategy this weekend.
“Yeah the Rebels have a problem though. If you look at their statistics in the third and fourth quarter they fall away. So they’re trying to last a game. I don’t know if the Highlanders will play with the same strategy, it isn’t in their mindset to play slowly, even if they like to control the back 50 of their half with a good kicking game.”
After the game, Wessels defended his team’s tactics and said their only responsibility was to win for the people of Melbourne.
“Yeah, we purposely slowed down the first part of the game, to I guess, take away some of the energy from the early part of the contest and try and finish on top of the game. I thought we finished the game well, I was really proud of the guys the way they came out after half-time, and upped the tempo and started to really play well,” Wessels said.
“At one point it was 21-10 and we hustled them in their 22 and if we scored there it would be 21-17. It would have been a tight game. But it is a real credit to the Bulls, I think they are an excellent side, they are well coached and they deserved the win.”
Wessels made it clear they had no apologies for the way they played.
“Our job is not to come and entertain the Loftus crowd, our job is to win for the people of Melbourne. That is our role. I should be clear, we wanted to slow the game at the appropriate times and play with a burst of energy at the appropriate times and I through we managed that well.
“We probably let in a soft try at half-time and if we had not done that and slotted some of those penalties you speak about, the game would have been competitive. We finished strongly and that was our plan, but we probably left ourselves with too much to do. I think for me personally, we are a team that are learning and we are going to get better every time we play."
Read the story on the supersport.com website