Cape Town – Bulls coach Jake White doesn’t think Bismarck du Plessis’ actions were “dirty” when he received a red card against Munster on Saturday, and he hopes that the veteran will be cleared to play in the Currie Cup next week.
The 37-year-old front-ranker was sent off by referee Ben Whitehouse in the 70th minute of the 29-24 United Rugby Championship victory at Loftus Versfeld, with the Bulls leading 29-17 at the time.
Du Plessis was held by Munster No 8 Alex Kendellen at a breakdown, who was trying to counter-ruck and win the ball back. The former Springbok hooker, though, then grabbed Kendellen by the legs and lifted him into the air, before dropping him over his shoulders.
Kendellen landed head-first onto the back of Bulls scrumhalf Zak Burger, who was lying on the ground, and Whitehouse felt that it warranted a straight dismissal from the field.
Munster were able to grab a third try through captain Jack O’Donoghue three minutes, and Ben Healy’s conversion made it all to play for in a tense finale.
The Bulls were able to stem the red tide and hold on for a crucial victory, but it was too close for comfort for the home side.
“I was going to start him on Wednesday against the Sharks (in the Currie Cup), so hopefully we will get that sanction sooner rather than later,” White said in the post-match press conference.
“I don’t think it was malicious… I don’t think it was dirty. The reality is that I can’t see that it is a high tackle, hitting someone on the head. At the end of the day, the guy was almost diving over him. He (Du Plessis) was a bit silly and should’ve held the guy up and just pull him back on the ground.
“But as we said, they came hard at the breakdown, and it’s one of those situations. I hope that common sense will prevail.
“In terms of how it affects me, I’m probably very fortunate in that I’ve got quite a few hookers signed with us. We’ve still got Joe van Zyl, Schalk Erasmus, Sidney Tobias – and Jan-Hendrik (Wessels) should be back in the next couple of weeks as well.
“You want a guy like Bismarck involved, with his experience and all the Tests he’s played. He is too good to do things like that. But I will sort it out with him. I will speak to him, and if we are going to grow as a team, it’s important that players like that must realise that young guys look up to them, and we can’t afford to every week give away a stupid card or play with 14 men.”
While the Bulls may have eyed a four-try bonus point after leading 29-3 early in the second half, Munster stormed back to produce three touchdowns and nearly snatch a victory in Pretoria.
Coach Johann van Graan – who won many titles as a Bulls assistant coach in the past – managed to get his team to stop conceding the stream of penalties that hampered them in the first half, and they capitalised on the home team’s lack of urgency in the second half, as they may have thought the game was won already.
But White was just happy that his team pulled off the victory.
“We just didn’t finish. The first half we finished, and in the second half, we didn’t finish the things we created. And I think that’s the lesson that I said to our players (will learn)… Don’t forget that this is a tough comp – you can’t take anything for granted,” he said.
“Who would’ve thought at 29-3 that that game would finish 29-24? So, there’s a lesson to be learnt for us if we want to play in this competition, we’ve got to play for 80 minutes.
“Tonight, I’ve got to say in patches, we looked really good. But obviously you can’t overlook the fact that we made it tough for ourselves. The refereeing… we are going to have to learn that from week to week, there are different referees.
“But it’s not like he reffed differently the whole game. I suppose he interprets certain things a different way, and I’m saying the way that northern-hemisphere guys do…
“They tried at the beginning of the game to do a maul run-around at the front there, and in the north, it might have been given as a try. So, we are not going to lose focus on the fact that we won this game.
“That’s what we wanted to do at the end of the day: get a home win and beat a side like Munster, because that gives us a lot of confidence.”
Bulls 29 – Tries: Madosh Tambwe, Walt Steenkamp. Conversions: Chris Smith (2). Penalties: Smith (5).
Munster 24 – Tries: Alex Kendellen, Damian de Allende, Jack O’Donoghue. Conversions: Ben Healy (3). Penalty: Healy (1).