Fixture fix: No 'conspiracy' here
REACTION: Edgar Rathbone, Chief Executive Officer of the Blue Bulls Company, moved swiftly to dispel the suggestion that his franchise is being favoured in the Currie Cup fixture rescheduling.
His reaction, in a teleconference call with the media, follows in the wake of the decision to move the dates of two of the Bulls’ Currie Cup matches to combat the threat of COVID-19 infection.
The Bulls’ home match against the Lions – originally scheduled for Saturday, December 26 – has been postponed to Wednesday, January 6.
The Bulls’ subsequent match against the Pumas – scheduled for two days later, Friday, January 8 – has been pushed back two days to Sunday, January 10, in Nelspruit.
Social media have been awash with opinions from uninformed fans suggesting there is a ‘conspiracy’ at large and that this is contaminating the integrity of the Currie Cup competition.
However, Rathbone was quick to point out other unions also had the option to reschedule their matches.
The Lions had two matches cancelled – their Super Rugby Unlocked fixtures against the Cheetahs and Pumas- while the Sharks versus Stormers Unlocked fixture was cancelled and last week’s Bulls versus Griquas Currie Cup encounter was called off.
This was all the result of COVID-19 outbreaks in the various camps.
The other games could not be rescheduled, but this time there was an opening in the scheduled.
“In terms of the protocols, the option has always been there for teams to reschedule if a match is at risk,” Rathbone told the media briefing.
“There needs to be an agreement between the two provinces.
“We were lucky that we reached that agreement [with the Lions] last week already, when we saw there might be a risk.
“We were in a favourable position in that our bye and the Lions’ bye is a week from each other, so there was a gap there,” the Bulls CEO said.
“And luckily, the CEO of the Pumas, Marius [van Rensburg] and [Pumas coach] Jimmy [Stonehouse] also agreed to move our fixture against them to the Sunday [January 10].
“I think in terms of us having an unfair advantage, I don’t believe that’s true.
“We need to play two games in a week, and leading up to the play-offs.
“For the Lions, they’ve already had two matches where they’ve had to share points, so they also need to play two games in one week.”
He is adamant this agreement protects the integrity of the competition.
“If you talk about the integrity of the competition, for the Currie Cup, it’s important that this match gets played,” the Bulls boss said.
“Not only this match – if the other matches could’ve been rescheduled, [then] they should’ve been.
“[This is a] top-of-the-table clash, [the] Jukskei Derby. [It] is important for the competition.”
Rathbone revealed that, because the game has been moved from this coming Saturday, the entire Bulls team is still in quarantine.
They will retest the squad on Sunday, December 27.
Although Rathbone reiterated last week’s statement that the number of infections are not important, sources claim it is into double digits.
The Bulls now have more than three weeks between matches – from their 29-32 loss to the Sharks on December 12 to their clash with the Lions on January 6.
“It is not ideal,” he said of the long break, adding: “But it gives the bodies time to recover.”
He added there were some niggly injuries in the squad that will have time to heal.
If they test clear on Sunday, December 27, they will start training on Monday, December 28.
“It will give us 10 days to train for the Lions game and we’ll be fresh going into the semifinals.”