Bismarck du Plessis stopped short of directly criticising the decision to yellow card him in the clash against Ulster, but the Vodacom Bulls hooker did echo his coach’s concerns over rugby heading down a path of self-destruction. DYLAN JACK reports.
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Du Plessis was controversially yellow-carded in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship loss to Ulster in Belfast.
The Irish side was leading 29-23 and the Vodacom Bulls were on the offensive, looking to snatch what would have been a rare away victory and end a string of successive defeats in all competitions.
On multiple views, there didn’t appear to be anything out of the ordinary with Du Plessis’ hit on flyhalf Billy Burns, but the TMO John Mason got involved and not only recommended that the Vodacom Bulls be penalised, but also that Du Plessis be sent to the sin bin. Ulster went on to win the game 32-23.
When Du Plessis was placed on press conference duty on Tuesday, he was asked about the decision.
Though initially hesitant to comment, saying he would share his full thoughts when he was retired and back on his farm, the veteran eventually made his thoughts quite clear, echoing Jake White’s sentiment about rugby following football’s path of basing decisions on player simulation.
“I understand the law changes. I have young kids myself, we do want to make it safer,” Du Plessis said.
“[But] I do think we shouldn’t shy away from what rugby is. It is a contact sport. The big thing that we should get away from, is getting to where soccer is now, where if you aren’t happy with a decision, you just lie on the ground and they [match officials] will eventually go back to it.
“We are treading in fine waters. I saw quite a few friends here, so I always ask them why they didn’t play soccer, or football as they call it here. They explained you can be as physical as you want and afterwards you have a cold one. That’ something I have always respected.
“We should keep our sport the way everyone likes it.”
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The Vodacom Bulls next face the arduous task of taking on French Top 14 league leaders Toulouse in a Champions Cup last 16 playoff in Toulouse.
Du Plessis spent six seasons in France with Montpellier and he is well aware of what will be waiting for the Vodacom Bulls on Sunday.
“The supporters are hostile. When you stop at Toulouse, its about a 150m walk to the changeroom. You walk on a small path and you have all these supporters shouting and screaming. Its a big gauntlet to overcome just to arrive and put your boots on.
“They are at the top of the Top 14. When I was young, these are the games where you make your name and change your future, that stories are made of. That’s our focus. To be really successful, we need a team performance from 23 to 28. We need the buy-in from each and every person. We need to stop their offload game and their physical runners.
“We are playing with a budget four times smaller. They have squads of 60 players, where we have 45 players. They know how to be successful in Europe. That’s why they are so formidable.”
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