Ref penalised the Stormers, says a bitter Schalk

2010-05-31 00:00

STORMERS captain Schalk Burger, physically battered and mentally bruised after his team were beaten 25-17 by the Bulls in the Super 14 final on Saturday night, has launched an astonishing attack on Craig Joubert and accused the respected South African referee of bias.

Caught up in the massive disappointment of defeat, and just moments after the final whistle in Soweto, Burger told millions of television viewers that Joubert had applied “a different set of breakdown rules for each team”.

Later, in front of the media, he expanded on his view and said he would not publicly criticise Joubert unless “I felt something was wrong”.

He said that Joubert had coached one team [the Bulls] at the breakdown and penalised the other [the Stormers].

“They kicked 18 points through penalties, while we only had two goalable opportunities. It’s not a case of sour grapes to question the calls.”

The Stormers had two other penalties in range, but kicked the first, after just 26 minutes, to touch while the second was reversed after lock Andries Bekker illegally dived on to a ruck.

It was an uncharacteristic outburst from Burger, a hard rugby man who usually treats the twin imposters, triumph and disaster, with a resigned smile.

The Bulls, ruthless, streetwise and with the superior kicking game, were on the front foot for most of the final, but Stormers coach Allister Coetzee backed his captain and said that Joubert’s blowing of the breakdown had decided the contest.

“It was an area where the game was won and lost. And, as Schalk said, he penalised one team and coached the other,” Coetzee added.

If the final proved anything, it is that the breakdown remains a highly contentious area of the game with far too much left to the interpretation of the laws by the referee.

But all this should not detract from what was another memorable day for the Bulls who were left to savour their third Super 14 title win in four years.

They played sensible, match-winning rugby and they had their two most influential players, captain and lock Victor Matfield and sublime scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, at the peak of their powers.

Matfield, calling and taking lineout ball at will, safe and secure at every kick-off, hitting the rucks and making a string of tackles, is very much the big occasion player.

Du Preez, managing his players, the game and the referee with aplomb, seldom appears flustered and, with slick passing or high kicks, he ensured that the Bulls made effective use of their steady flow of possession while keeping them on the front foot.

Coach Frans Ludeke described the pair as “the heartbeat of the Bulls” and they were pivotal to Saturday’s win.

Matfield, in turn, said the victory, over a highly competent Stormers side, was the most special of the three titles they have won.

“The Stormers are a great side with a really tough defence. If we had attacked like that against any other side we would have scored more tries.

“But we controlled the ball well in contact and stayed patient.”

Matfield said the superior Bulls’ scrum had laid the foundation for victory, placing the Stormers under pressure and winning a string of penalties.

It was an excellent, wholehearted final, played out against the most extraordinary backdrop and to a cacophony of sound, but it was soured by Burger’s post-match remarks.

The tablecloth hanging over Cape Town this morning will be one of deep gloom and anger, and it could stay with them for days and months.

They are in the best of company. Down in Shark country the mourning and frustration, the helpless feeling of what might have been, has lasted years.

The Stormers, their supporters and media, need a scapegoat in this time of anguish and Schalk Burger has provided one.

See page 38 for match report.

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