I KNOW northern and southern hemisphere rugby is played to different laws, but I never knew that the northern and southern discrepancy applied to South African rugby.
Mark Keohane – Business Day
The Bulls are the Super 14 champions for a second successive year. Congratulations, well done and whatever other politically correct thing one says after such victories.
The kind words are not extended to South African referee Craig Joubert, who should hand back his winning mug because on the evidence of his officiating at the breakdown he was the mug at the Orlando Stadium.
Why was the world’s best referee, Jonathan Kaplan, in charge of Paarl Gym’s 34-32 win against Bishops in Paarl on Saturday when he should have been refereeing as the best played the best in Soweto?
Stormers captain Schalk Burger was diplomatic in applauding the champion Bulls, but it doesn’t get more crass at a televised politically correct post-match interview when a captain says the two teams played to two different sets of rules at the breakdown. It was an up-yours to Joubert, and rightly so.
The result stands. The Bulls are champions. Up north they will tell you deservedly so. Down south the word will be frustratingly so.
I’d love to see these two teams play a game under the same set of rules before deciding who is better. I’d picked the Stormers to win by 10 but then I did anticipate a game where the attacker is given a moment to place the ball and the defender has to allow for that moment before smothering the ball.
Perhaps it was that the Stormers wore white and the paleness of the colour meant Joubert could never see anything but a blue hand, be it placing the ball or playing it. Joubert was awful and I know he is better than what he delivered in Soweto.
The breakdown contest was the one we all wanted to see, but it never happened and it was crucial to the outcome. This was an occasion to celebrate South African rugby’s dominance. The best teams in the tournament, a multi cultural occasion in Soweto, even if the crowd was mostly white, and a country unified in their belief that SA tops rugby’s world order.
And then we get the second- best to play conductor.
I challenge Joubert and those who appointed him to take me (and Schalk, if he wants to be there) through the tape at the South African Rugby Union’s offices and explain the breakdown interpretation, and what it means to place the ball and to smother it and infringe.
If I am the idiot in getting it wrong, I’ll front to it, but I know it won’t be necessary and I also know Joubert won’t do it because it would embarrass him — and it won’t change the result.
Referee and touch judge cock-ups never meet with consequences in a game that is called professional.
Take Ricky Januarie’s last score. He was short, but Joubert awarded it. Again the emotion of the moment got the better of him. Things also went against the Bulls, but it was no coincidence that they did so 76 minutes into the game. What Joubert penalised the Bulls for in those last four minutes he excused in the first 76 minutes.
The touch judge decision to penalise Andries Bekker’s stupidity at a cleanout that in no way infringed a Bulls player or the flow of play was probably the biggest decision in the game. Joubert saw it and rightly let play continue.
Why did he not overrule the touch judge on what he had seen? What was a Stormers penalty and a possible 19-13 scoreline with nine minutes to play, translated into a Bulls penalty, a 50m gain and a 22-10 Bulls lead a minute later.
Frustration at being robbed of a breakdown contest aside, the Bulls are a quality side and they played to the referee’s vulnerability. Credit to them and their leadership. Their senior players also targeted certain Stormers players. Credit again to them. This is a contact sport and when Bekker left the field after five minutes to clean the blood from his mouth the Bulls had made a point: Victor Matfield was still king; Bekker the pretender to his throne.
I didn’t see too many Bulls players bleed and for that you can’t point fingers at the referee. A statement of intent, legal or illegal, had to be made to the Bulls if the underdog Stormers were to win. That meant Matfield and Fourie du Preez being singled out. It didn’t happen and Matfield stood taller than Bekker and Du Preez stood tallest of all. There has been no better lock and scrumhalf in professional rugby, and there have been some good ones.
Du Preez is the best rugby player in the world and Matfield is a close second. Of that there can be no doubt and Morné Steyn is easily the most consistent flyhalf. With Du Preez and Steyn’s aerial kicking game dictating field position, it takes a monumental effort, every bounce of the ball and a referee who consistently applies the breakdown law for any opposition to make a game of it.
The Stormers were good but not monumental, the bounce of the ball was not there, the Bulls were that good and I’ve already wasted too many trees in column inches on Joubert and the breakdown.
As I said earlier, the result stands. The Bulls are Super 14 champions for a second successive time and South African rugby is ultimately the biggest victor.