Sharks’ tactics give Nucifora the Blues

The Blues have cried foul over the tactics employed by South African Super 14 powerhouse outfit the Sharks, with Blues coach David Nucifora also running the risk of official censure after having a go at match officials.

Their decision to spit the dummy follows the Blues’ 25-32 Round 11 loss to the Sharks in Auckland at the weekend – a defeat that saw them being toppled from first place on the Super 14 standings.

The Blues and fellow New Zealand outfit the Crusaders are both on 37 points, but the defending Super 14 champions the Crusaders are ahead on points difference. The Sharks are in third place three points down on the pace setters.

The Auckland game, which was delayed by 15 minutes after a fault set off a fire alarm at Eden Park, was marked by a number of spiteful incidents throughout.

Nucifora launched a scathing attack on both the Sharks and the match officials in his post-match media conference, while the Blues also used their official website to launch a broadside at the Sharks.

On their website they accused the Sharks of using “all their street-fighting qualities” to secure the crucial win, while the South Africans were also accused of “targeting” Blues scrum-half Steve Devine with “rough house tactics”.

But it was in his post-match reaction that Nucifora was particularly indignant.

The Blues coach blasted referee Stuart Dickinson for the manner in which he handled the game and also risked censure after he had words with the Australian match official at half-time.

He didn’t stop there and also criticised the referee at a the post-match media conference.

“Our players were being interfered with off the ball,” Nucifora said.

“We did ask for that to be policed during the game, but I didn’t think it was done satisfactorily. It started quite a bit of the niggle.”

While Nucifora accepted the Sharks deserved their win, he felt that at least two of the three Sharks tries were questionable.

Winger Odwa Ndungane scored from what the Blues claimed were a “blatant” forward pass and fellow winger JP Pietersen touched down just on half-time after the Sharks disrupted Auckland’s possession at a ruck.

“There were some disappointing decisions in the game. We were disappointed with the first two tries. I think the one on half-time was particularly obvious what happened to everyone.”

The spiteful match came to a head midway through the second half when Blues centre Sam Tuitupou was sin-binned for throwing punches at Sharks lock Johan Ackermann.

“I saw Sam throw a punch, but I certainly saw him being punched a couple of times [by Ackermann] in the first instance,” Nucifora says.

“Once again that incident was sparked by some off the ball play, with our players being interfered with away from the football, which started most of the incidents in the game.

“It would be a nice day when the referees and the rest of the officials sat in front of you [the media] and explained some of
their decisions,” Nucifora said.

“It wasn’t just the referee who I thought made some mistakes,” he added.

“I thought one of the touch judges also made quite a few errors out there.”

Earlier this year Reds coach Eddie Jones was fined AU$10,000 for criticising referee Matt Goddard.

While Nucifora was obviously very unhappy with the match officials, he at least gave the Sharks credit for their efforts in the wet conditions, with rain falling during the match.

“They played the conditions better than we did in the first 40 minutes and put all the pressure back on us. Their kicking game was a lesson to us, but I was happy with the way we fought back in the second half and showed some character.”

The good news from the game for the Blues, aside from the bonus point, is the players came through the rugged encounter with no injury concerns.


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