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Bulls have to 'adapt' to ref calls

REACTION: The Bulls’ 7-34 defeat to Connacht was a rude awakening for South Africa’s best franchise.


Having been crowned the Rainbow Cup SA and the Currie Cup champions, the Bulls headed to Europe with a solid reputation.

While the defeat has added to South Africa’s misery in the North, it has also put a spotlight on the huge difference in officiating between the two hemispheres.

During the Round Two fixture, the men from Pretoria were often caught on the wrong side of referee Ben Blain, particularly when it came to the breakdowns.

The Bulls were continuously penalised for not rolling away and sealing off their carriers, while the opposition was allowed to slow down the ball at the ruck on several occasions.

Not one to complain, Bulls director of rugby Jake White has urged his side to adapt when it comes to referee decisions.

“It’s all about learning to adapt,” White said.


“Obviously, we have done well in South Africa, but we are now in a different environment playing against different opposition and different interpretations of how they see the game being played.

“We’ve got to adapt – it’s as simple as that.”

White identified that there were a couple of areas where the Bulls really struggled to interpret the referee’s officiating – which they will review and work on.

“If you are allowed to hold on to the tackler and go to the ground with him and that’s interpreted as okay, then we can’t moan about it. We’ve got to do the same thing.


“There’s been some talk about the so-called flying wedge, where you can’t bind with two players around the ball carrier and there were times today where I thought even in these conditions where it was harder to stop even one guy when there were three guys flying towards you. It made things difficult.”

One call made by Blain which certainly raised a few eyebrows was Connacht wing Mark Hansen’s controversial try.

In the build-up, it appeared that his teammate Ultan Dillane was impeding Bulls prop Lizo Gqoboka from attempting a tackle the wing.

And one could see Dillane is indeed stepping backwards in the path of Gqoboka. Blain along with TMO Andrew McMenemy concluded that Dillane’s actions were not “deliberate”.

The decision left most puzzled given the law does not make provision for accidental or deliberate obstruction.

When asked about the incident White said: “You hear captain Marcell Coetzee ask the referee. Some would argue Lizo was maybe obstructed, but that’s exactly what you learn coming here.

“It’s something we are going to have to learn.

“We are going to have to adapt and find ways in which we can regroup. It was difficult – all of a sudden they scored twice after half-time, and it was literally 12 points in 10 minutes. Then you’re uphill into the wind, and it’s very difficult.

“We tried to play rugby, and I thought at times we played really nicely in those conditions. But I’m never going to be a coach that says we are happy when we ended up losing 7-34 when we were 7-0 up.”

The Bulls travel to Wales to face Cardiff Blues on Saturday, October 9.


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