Bulls coach Frans Ludeke reckons his team aren’t a dirty side. Four cards, six citings and four bans in just three matches would indicate that, perhaps, the Loftus supremo has lost touch with reality. One wonders when he’ll realise he’s left for a four-week tour of the Anitpodes without a fullback!
The Bulls pulled off a Houdini act at Loftus on Friday night. 30 minutes into the game and 17 points up, their famed indiscipline reared its ugly head yet again, with fullback Zane Kirchner shown a red card for a spear tackle. Kirchner became the third Bulls player this season to face censure for this transgression; JP Nel and Dewald Potgieter were each banned for a week for spear tackles in the matches against the Sharks and the Crusaders respectively. Lock Bakkies Botha, in his first game back after injuring himself late last year, was yellow carded at the same time as Kirchner, leaving the Bulls reeling with only 13 on the field. The Lions, somewhat bafflingly, failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage, allowing the Bulls to take the spoils by a comfortable margin.
Looking back over their first four games this year, one really starts to wonder how Ludeke could possibly defend the disciplinary track record of his side. They got away with murder in their opener against the Stormers, due in no small part to the fact that Willie Roos (the brother-in-law of recently retired Bulls loose forward Johann Wassermann) seems incapable of spotting infringements committed by the men in light blue. Although no cards were shown during their 54-19 capitulation to the Crusaders, both Nel and Potgieter found themselves on the carpet the following Monday. Nel got off scott-free on this occasion after one of his trademark swinging-arm clotheslines, while Potgieter was benched for a week.
The match against the Sharks was no better, with first Danie Rossouw and then Nel spending time in the sin-bin, allowing the Sharks to score four tries while the Bulls were reduced to fourteen. The worst incident in this match, though, was the cowardly punch by Bulls prop Jaco Engels, which was missed by the match officials. Engels was duly cited for the blow to Johann Muller’s right eye, though and handed a three-match paid holiday.
Ludeke’s statement is an overt endorsement of the sort of thuggery and indiscipline that marrs his team’s play. Until he takes a firm stance and punishes the serial offenders (like Nel) himself, no clear message will be sent out and the rot will continue. The Bulls have got off lightly to date, with the South African judicial committees proving far more lenient than their Antipodean colleagues will be, should any South African player transgress in Australia or New Zealand.
Don’t expect miracles, though. This is the man who has elected not to replace Kirchner in his tour group after the fullback was handed a two-match ban. The Bulls will play their first two matches on tour without a recognised fullback anywhere in their squad! Their only saving grace is that they will face the Reds first up and if recent results are anything to go by, the Bulls won’t need more than 14 men to pick up a win in Brisbane.Tweet