Bulls CEO dismisses fixtures ‘conspiracy’

Vodacom Bulls chief executive Edgar Rathbone has dismissed talk that they could get an advantage from having their final two Currie Cup games rescheduled.

The dates for the Bulls’ upcoming fixtures against the Lions and Pumas have been moved in light of positive Covid-19 tests in the Pretoria team’s camp.

SA Rugby on Monday confirmed that the Bulls’ home match against the Lions – which was originally scheduled to kick-off this Saturday at 7pm on 26 December – has been postponed to 7pm on Wednesday 6 January because of infection in the Bulls’ squad.

Their subsequent match against the Pumas in Nelspruit, scheduled to start two days later on Friday, 8 January, will also be moved back as a result and will now kick-off on Sunday, 10 January at 4pm.

This has led to complaints from opposition fans, especially in light of the Lions having two Super Rugby Unlocked games cancelled, while the Sharks vs Stormers match was also called off due to Covid-19 protocols.

However, speaking in a online conference with the media, Bulls boss Rathbone said that there has always been an option to reschedule matches.

‘In terms of the protocols, the option has always been there for teams to reschedule if a match is at risk,’ Rathbone explained. ‘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

‘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].’

The Bulls currently lead the Currie Cup standings by six points going into the last couple of rounds, but 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.

Rathbone rejected claims that the Bulls would have any sort of advantage going into the crunch stage of South Africa’s domestic season.

‘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 playoffs.

‘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.

‘If you talk about the integrity of the competition, for the Currie Cup, it’s important that this match gets played. 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. It will give us 10 days to train for the Lions game and we’ll be fresh going into the semi-finals.’

Photo: Sydney Sehibedi/Gallo Image

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Dylan Jack