South African referee Jaco Peyper issued two white cards against the Crusaders after Bulls hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, on the stroke of half-time, and eighthman and captain Pierre Spies, on behalf of lock Flip van der Merwe from the second-half kick-off, made allegations of eye-gouging at rucks.
Sanzar, SuperRugby’s ruling body, introduced the use of white cards this season for when referees suspect foul play but have not seen the incident or are unsure of the culprit. The card alerts the citing commissioner to view television replays of the incident and check whether it requires judicial action.
“Personally, I’m bemused. If the allegations made are shown to be false then I expect an apology because they’re pretty serious allegations and otherwise anyone can make allegations and we’ll have white cards all over the place. I’m not sure the system is designed for that,” Blackadder told a news conference after the game.
“There’s a process in place, but I would be very disappointed if the allegations are shown to be true. I know my players well, they’re guys of character and there’s no way they would do that [eye-gouge]. I’ll be interested in the outcome.”
The former Canterbury captain, who led his team to a hat-trick of Sanzar titles between 1998 and 2000, said he was proud of his team’s fightback after they had trailed 16-32 with just seven minutes remaining.
“We were right there at the end and I was really pleased by the fightback and we’ve gained a lot of self-belief here. We took a point from the game, there was a huge improvement and we’re back on track,” Blackadder said.
The former All Black captain bemoaned a lack of direct running, especially in the first half, when the Crusaders allowed the Bulls to claw their way back to 9-13 at the break, after the visitors had led 10-0 after 13 minutes.
“We played too far behind the advantage line, we attacked from far to deep. We moved the ball side-to-side and we did not engage the defence enough. When we fought back, that’s what we tried to do in the first half,” Blackadder said.
Spies said the Bulls had shrugged off the incidents.
“It’s just something that happens sometimes in the game and it’s in the hands of the referee and the judicial officers. We just stayed focused and as disciplined as possible, we wanted to keep the penalty count as low as possible,” Spies said.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said eye-gouging had no place in the game and he would be upset if the allegations were proven.
“There’s no place for foul play and silly incidents like that. There will be a review and there may be nothing, but it’s not part of the game. No-one wants to see that sort of thing.
“It’s tough to say what happened, but we’ll leave it for the judicial officers, they specialise in that,” Ludeke said.
The coach praised a top-class kicking performance by flyhalf Morne Steyn, who succeeded with eight out of 10 shots at goal for a tally of 22 points, for securing a crucial win for the Bulls, after the Stormers had opened up a sizeable lead in the South African Conference with a 21-6 victory over a strong Otago Highlanders team in Dunedin earlier on Saturday.
“It was a vital win for us and Morne’s kicks just before half-time and soon afterwards were the turning point for us. It gave us a positive mindset and the momentum for that opening try. We had good moments in the last 10 minutes of the first half and that’s when the momentum changed,” Ludeke said.
The penalty just after half-time closed the gap to 12-13, after which the Bulls scored two tries and Steyn added both the conversions and two penalties to put the home side in the driving seat.