Cape Town – Playing without three tighthead props was always going to mean a long night in the scrums for the Bulls, but coach Jake White was also a bit unhappy about the officiating in the 30-16 United Rugby Championship defeat to the Sharks on Friday night.
After Trevor Nyakane signed midweek for French club Racing 92, the Pretoria side were also without Mornay Smith and Jacques van Rooyen at Kings Park, which saw rookie Robert Hunt – a Varsity Cup recruit from UCT a few months ago – wearing the No 3 jersey.
There wasn’t much back-up on the bench either, with Springbok loosehead prop Lizo Gqoboka starting his journey as a tighthead on the night. It resulted in almost every scrum on the Sharks feed ending in a penalty to the hosts, while the Bulls resorted to a quick heel on their ball in an attempt to get out of the scrum battle.
But the slow poison eventually resulted in a yellow card to Gqoboka in the second half following yet another scrum penalty, with Sharks No 1 Ntuthuko Mchunu dominant.
Sharks flyhalf Boeta Chamberlain slotted six penalties and a conversion for a 17-point haul as he stretched the lead in the second half to take the game beyond the visitors.
“It’s very disappointing. We didn’t want to lose this game, especially after such a long break. But they’re a good side – I said it during the week, they’re sort of like an international club team now,” White said in the post-match press conference.
“So, we’ve got to make sure that we get those things right. But they were things we know we can get right. We’ve just chatted to the players, and there are a lot of work-ons there that we can get, and we will make sure that we get them right the next time we play them.
“To be fair, we moved Lizo there to tighthead now, and he’s got to try it. Robert Hunt played Varsity Cup a couple of months ago. There was no Jacques van Rooyen, no Trevor Nyakane and no Mornay Smith, so it was inevitably going to be a tough task for us.
“On our ball, we played quite cleverly, and I enjoyed the way we moved the ball away from the scrum. But we couldn’t stop the fact that they, on their ball, could put us under pressure.”
The Bulls were 13-9 up at halftime after a well-taken early try by fullback David Kriel – who had to move to No 15 from centre in a late change, as Kurt-Lee Arendse was withdrawn due to a Covid-19 close contact, which saw Harold Vorster come in at No 12 – as well as a conversion and two penalties from Morné Steyn.
But the Bulls’ lack of cohesion in the scrums, several handling errors on attack and a gift intercept try to Lukhanyo Am – from a long Steyn pass near the Sharks 22 – put the home side 19-13 ahead, and they never relinquished their lead.
White, though, felt that referee Jaco Peyper and TMO Stuart Berry had missed some Sharks indiscretions on the night.
When asked if he felt that his team’s discipline had not been at its best – after Peyper had to calm the players down a few times during the match – White said: “I’m not really sure what you mean, but the referee managed to see a lot of things by the TMO in certain instances, and missed a lot of things with the TMO in other instances.
Can we talk about this 𝗛![CDATA]>𝗜![CDATA]>𝗧 from Sbu Nkosi on Madosh Tambwe for a moment 😳![CDATA]>💥 pic.twitter.com/BmtI38QP18— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) December 3, 2021
“It was always going to be a ding-dong battle, and it’s always going to be a little spicy as well – you’re talking about two teams who have played each other many times in big games. So, it was going to be no different this week.
“The referee and TMO have to see what they can pick up, and as I said, it’s all part of the game.
“(Happy with discipline) Hundred percent, hundred percent… hundred percent. Little bit disappointed that certain things weren’t (picked up)… It doesn’t always work out. We got a yellow card for a prop struggling in the scrum – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”