Bulls keep hopes alive
05 June 2011 | HEINZ SCHENK
JOHANNESBURG - From the outset it must be said that the Bulls deserve credit for hanging on to record the 23-17 win over the Waratahs on the weekend that keeps their play-off ambitions very much alive.
Yet the blunt truth is that the victory was superficial on so many levels, ranging from the defending champions’ own underwhelming performance on the night to an absolutely crucial marching order for Pat O’Connor when the visitors where in the ascendancy.
The Waratah replacement second rower was controversially red-carded after assistant referee Pro Legoete consulted with chief arbiter Craig Joubert, the former advising of the head-butt though suggesting that it didn’t warrant a sending-off.
Joubert then sternly countered that any head-butt’s sanction is a red-card and Legoete, backpedalling almost meekly, concurred.
No conclusive television evidence could be found and the referees faced further embarrassment when the evidence they presented at the subsequent judicial hearing prompted judicial officer Jannie Lubbe to rule that no further action would be taken.
Laudably, Waratahs coach Chris Hickey kept a cool head about the incident.
“You can make up your own mind about it. Decisions like that need to be accurate because they have a big influence on the game,” he said.
Instead, he blamed his charges’ own capriciousness – they wasted numerous scoring opportunities, particularly in the first half – for the defeat.
“I think that we did have opportunities in the first half, but we turned the ball over in the Bulls 22 on three or four occasions and against a team like the Bulls, when you get that field position, you have to build pressure and we failed to do that,” Hickey said.
The hosts, displaying the type of fortitude reminiscent of their title-winning campaigns, were happy with the way they ground out the win.
“You need these tough games along the way,”said Bulls coach Frans Ludeke.
“Both teams were committed and wanted a positive result, that’s why there were so many huge collisions. It was great to get the reward.”
Captain Victor Matfield was impressed with his team-mates’ composure after being under pressure for the majority of the game, particularly after uncontested scrums were implemented following injuries to Waratah props Benn Robinson and Paddy Ryan.
“When that happened I felt the Waratahs really did get into the game,”he said.
“Luckily we kept our focus and we were very happy with our defence in that regard.”
“You can’t foresee these things. It was a pity because it took a facet of play we did well in out of the game.”
Buoyed by fortuitous results elsewhere – which places the South African play-off contenders in good positions – the Bulls go into the build-up for a clash against the Stormers at Newlands in high spirits.
“Teams know each other well nowadays, so any big match-up remains a huge challenge but it’s nice to know our destinies are in our own hands,” said Matfield.
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