Vodacom Bulls head coach Jake White questioned the decision-making process which saw his team reduced to 14 men against Western Province on Saturday.
The Bulls started their Currie Cup campaign on a high by claiming a last-gasp 22-20 victory over Western Province on Saturday evening, their first win at Newlands in 11 years.
A massive talking point came just seven minutes into the second half when TMO Rasta Rasivhenge spotted a dangerous tackle by Bulls loosehead prop Jacques van Rooyen on Province fullback Warrick Gelant.
Rasivhenge initially recommended that the tackle merited a yellow card, but after a long discussion, referee AJ Jacobs decided to overturn the decision – even though he had no view of the incident at the stadium – and send Van Rooyen off as he reasoned that the tackle had ‘contact to the head with extreme danger and no mitigation’.
Despite playing with 14 men for most of the second half, the Bulls only conceded two tries and fought their way back to snatch a win when Marco Jansen van Vuren scored what turned into the match-winning try after flyhalf Chris Smith’s winning touchline conversion.
Speaking to the media in an online briefing after the match, White questioned the process that the TMO and referee followed to make the decision to send Van Rooyen off.
‘I heard the commentary and then all of a sudden they switched it off,’ White explained. ‘I found that odd because we always have access to the communication between everybody on the field. It was almost like they didn’t have an agreement between themselves on whether it was a red or a yellow card or a penalty. And then when it was red, I thought “jeez that’s a bit strange”. Usually, if someone’s in doubt then I think the [benefit of the] doubt would go to the player [tackler].
‘I don’t think it was justifiable as a red card. Warrick Gelant got up and carried on playing, he didn’t even get banged on his head, he hit him on the shoulder.’
However, White sympathised with referee Jacobs.
‘AJ is rated quite highly, he works closely with [South African Test referee] Jaco Peyper in Bloemfontein. He’s regarded as one of the referees that they see as a potential Test referee going forward. It’s difficult for a guy to pick up everything. He must also have felt under pressure at the end of the game.’
Western Province coach John Dobson was also asked about the incident, which he called a ‘grey area’ of the game.
Dobson referred to an incident in Saturday’s Test match between New Zealand and Argentina, when All Blacks prop Tyrel Lomax was only shown a yellow card for a dangerous clean out despite swinging his arm into the head of an opponent.
‘I think we’re back in a bit of a grey area with those situations,’ Dobson said. ‘At the end of this morning’s Argentina vs All Blacks game, there was a red card in my mind which was only given as yellow. That probably may have been worse than what happened today.
‘I think we are slacking generally, finding a lot of mitigating factors like this morning’s game. Those injuries can be devastating. But if that’s going to be universally applied that it’s a red card, then great.
‘But with the context of the way rugby is at the moment, I was probably a little surprised it was a red card, but they did go through their checklist, we could hear them go through their checklist. But if it happened to us, yes I’d probably have been disappointed that it was red but I would have accepted it as well.’
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images