Super Rugby Week Seven: Controversy Strikes

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Super Rugby Week 7
DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 30: Schalk Brits of the Vodacom Bulls gets a red card from Referee: Mike Fraser (NZ) during the Super Rugby match between Cell C Sharks and Vodacom Bulls at Jonsson Kings Park on March 30, 2019 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Super Rugby Week Seven saw the DHL Stormers lose away to the Blues and the Vodacom Bulls sneak an away win against the Cell C Sharks.

Super Rugby Week Seven

Blues 24 DHL Stormers 9

Blues – Tries: Tenielu Tele’a, Tehere Black and Rieko Ioane Conversions: Tehere Black 3 Penalty: Tehere Black

DHL Stormers – Penalties: Jean-Luc du Plessis

There wasn’t too much controversy to this game other than a few instances of foul play that were missed. The elbow to Dillyn Leyds (shown below) face was an obvious one. Damian de Allende might still need to have a chat with the Citing Officer about a ruck clean out without using his arms.

What came as a real surprise was the style of play the Stormers chose for this game. They stepped away from their more conservative forwards based game and opted to run the ball. It remains a mystery why they would spurn their first three opportunities at setting up driving mauls in an attempt to score. This was spectacularly unsuccessful and a competent Blues defense easily repelled them.

The Stormers also missed too many one on one tackles. Once again, De Allende features in the conversation. His attempted tackle on Tenielu Tele’a, who went on to score, was a very poor attempt from a seasoned international.

Everyone has their own view on why the Stormers are not scoring more tries. The most obvious one is surely to move Damian Willemse to flyhalf.

The Stormers move on to Australia to take on the Reds next weekend.

Cell C Sharks 16 Vodacom Bulls 19

Vodacom Bulls – Try: Jesse Kriel Conversion: Handre Pollard Penalties: Handre Pollard 4

Cell C Sharks – Tries: Dan du Preez and Andre Esterhuizen Penalties: Robert du Preez 2

If quality rugby was what you were looking for, Kings Park was not the place to find it on Saturday. What should have been a contest for the top of the table in the South African Conference looked more like a bottom of the table contest to avoid the wooden spoon.

Handling was shocking. No matter how humid it is in Durban at this time of year or how slippery the ball can be, neither side can be proud of their display of ball handling skills. In terms of how each side approached the game, both were disappointing.

The Bulls continue to lean towards a conservative approach, kicking for position and taking any penalty points on offer. This has been mentioned before, but their inability to score try scoring bonus points will hurt them at the back end of the competition. This is not the same Bulls team that hammered the Stormers in week one.

For their part the Sharks are relying more on brute force in attack than the Bulls. It isn’t really working. An added element to their game has been niggle off the ball. This wasted energy adds nothing to a squad that should be doing a lot better given their resources.

The controversy

A shoulder charge

This game certainly delivered in terms of controversy. At the lower end of the scale, Sharks lock Ruben van Heerden’s clean out on both Handre Pollard and Burger Odendaal should have been a yellow card. His shoulder made light contact with Pollard’s head, but made direct contact to Odendaal’s back. It was sent upstairs to the TMO, but the collective match day officials couldn’t pick up on the no arms clean out.

Was the ball out?

A try by the Sharks was ruled out as the TMO ruled a kick ahead to have brushed the touchline. The supporters in black will all agree that the ball landed infield. The supporters in blue are convinced that the ball touched more than a few blades of grass painted white.

Setting aside allegiances, the important thing to do is ensure that that we pay respect to the due process the match day officiating team needs to follow. Referee Mike Fraser consulted with Assistant Referee Brendon Pickerall (pictured above and in a great position to make a call) and the on field decision was a try. As the on field decision was a try, it was TMO Christie du Preez’s obligation to prove that a try had not been scored. Personal opinions aside, none of the camera angles provided could conclusively prove that the ball did touch some whitewash. That being the case the on field decision should have been upheld, but it was over turned.

“That” altercation

What on earth happened to instigate two players who have never seen a red card in their careers get involved with “that” fight? The hookers from either side got involved in a disgusting fight that can never be condoned. Red cards to both players was the correct decision.

Both players threw punches, so there can be no arguing the point. Both will receive significant bans. It is likely that Van der Merwe will receive the longer ban for two reasons. Brits was not the instigator of the fight as Fraser claimed. He reacted to Van der Merwe’s clean out with a shoulder to his head. While holding Brits to the ground, Van der Merwe may or may not have made contact around the eye area.

Both players have been apologetic and made a point of presenting themselves as brothers in arms after the game. Unfortunately, that does not erase what the viewing public witnessed.

The Sharks now move on to visit the Lions, who had a bye this weekend. The Bulls will host the visiting Jaguares. One thing will be certain. Both teams will be without their first choice hookers.

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