Spies: Bulls got the referee’s 50/50 calls

Bulls captain Pierre Spies has admitted that the Referee Jaco van Heerden’s 50/50 calls went their way in their 43-35 Super Rugby victory over the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.

Spies admits that the Sharks forced the Bulls to work for their bonus-point victory but they always believed they had the potential to do it.

“If you go in order, your first go for the win, so we were obviously going for that and we knew we had it in us to score four tries and we really had to graft it out for 80 minutes,” Spies said.

“Tonight was a much better performance with a lot less mistakes and we could put pressure on their set-pieces and convert the pressure into points.

“Tonight a few 50-50 calls went our way which is a great feeling compared to the last two weeks.”

The victory was the Bulls’ first of the season following two straight defeats at their hallowed home ground.

Negating an 11-point Bulls lead to take the lead with nine minutes left in the match, the Sharks would feel a tad unlucky with two crucial calls going against them.

The Bulls’ first try of the match produced the first drama when Television Match Official adjudged a Jesse Kriel pass to eventual try-scorer Francois Hougaard to be perfectly legal, while it seemed to be a forward pass.

The Sharks then were denied a try when winger Odwa Ndungane contested the ball in the air but the call was made he had knocked the ball on.

Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold said these decision proved crucial as his side suffered their second defeat in the competition.

“That first Bulls try and the other TMO decision wasn’t allowed for the try Odwa set up were critical, they were game changers in a much bigger sense than we can understand,” Gold said.

“It went from us potentially winning the game, potentially getting a fourth try, to then losing the game with a bonus point and losing the game without a bonus point.

“That is massive in a South African conference that will be very tightly contested because every team is good this year and everyone is competitive.”

With only three scrums throughout the entire match, Bulls coach Frans Ludeke hailed the quality rugby the two sides dished up.

“I thought it was an outstanding performance by the team especially in the situation that we were, the way the players just coped with the pressure,” Ludeke said.

“We always knew we had this kind of game, so it was really rewarding tonight to even get the bonus point.”

The country’s two leading flyhalves went toe-to-toe with both the Sharks’ Patrick Lambie and Bulls pivot Handre Pollard demonstrating why they are so highly regarded.

Both players’ game management was superb while they also turned in flawless kicking performances as Lambie contributed 25 of his side’s points with the boot and 18 went the way of Pollard.

Key to the Bulls’ resurgence was the performance of Bulls scrumhalf Rudy Paige, who gave quick flash service to his ball carriers and to Pollard.

Gold said praised his charges for the character they had shown to come close to claiming a victory at Loftus Versfeld.

“It was a very intense pressure cooker as it always is at Loftus against a very desperate Bulls team that I thought played well,” Gold said.

“On the one hand I think both teams made errors but in short the comeback and the character shown by the guys, the opportunities we created and executed we were very unlucky to lose that game.”

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