Sporting relations between SA and Australia are not at an all-time high and after Saturday’s Super Rugby clash between the Stormers and Reds‚ they were further strained.
The Stormers won a spiteful game 25-19, in which Reds tighthead Taniela Tupou was lucky to remain on the field after he escaped the referee’s punishment for launching his 130kg frame at Stormers wing Craig Barry’s head.
He connected without the use of his arms but, unbelievably, referee Marius van der Westhuizen‚ who was a couple of metres from the incident‚ and his team of officials failed to act.
There were several more unsavoury incidents as the Reds took Australia’s favourite pastime — pushing the line — to the limit. Tupou was later cited for his lunge at Barry for an infringement that "met the red card threshold". It was another example of weak and inconsistent officiating that left Stormers coach Robbie Fleck irritated.
"They are quite a robust team and it was a bit disappointing … that the cheap shots they dished out early in the game were not recognised and dealt with by the referee. There were at least four incidents that weren’t dealt with‚ so I … credit my players for staying composed," Fleck said.
"We were clearly the dominant team and dictated most of the game. But execution let us down. During the 80 minutes‚ referee Marius van der Westhuizen had to sort it out.
"There was certainly going to be some cheap shots, and as long as we held our composure‚ we would be okay."
The Stormers were disrup-ted by the late withdrawal of wing JJ Engelbrecht due to a haematoma on his leg‚ meaning reserve flyhalf George Whitehead had to start at fullback with Joshua Stander coming on to the bench. Scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage was also injured midway through the first half.
He sustained a rib injury and is out for this weekend’s game.