Gregor Paul 's Opinion

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Shame on the Bulls

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The Canterbury Crusaders. Photo / Getty Images.
The Canterbury Crusaders. Photo / Getty Images.

A bit like Oscar Wilde's assertion that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about, the only thing worse than eye-gouging, is making false accusations about eye-gouging.

Shame on the Bulls - first for their clearly malicious and entirely false allegations that two of their players were gouged late in the game against the Crusaders; and then their refusal to apologise after the citing commissioner was unable to find any video evidence to substantiate the claims.

Gouging is a despicable act - the work of the borderline insane. The hard wiring has to be seriously wrong to even think about jabbing a finger in someone's eye. Blokes who do it are usually the kind who also run to your seat after you have left the room and sniff it.
There have been New Zealand players in the past happy to do a bit of rummaging in eye sockets. It would be laughable to be throwing stones without acknowledging past sins.

But they are past sins that belong to a different, almost forgotten time.

New Zealand rugby has been relatively clean in the professional era. The worst of the filth has been cleaned up - those in front of the judiciary are usually up for a bit or careless footwork or a rogue tackle. It's rare even for anyone down here to throw a decent punch.

New Zealand does genuinely hard men who have little need or desire to resort to the worst acts of thuggery which is why Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder was angry at the Bulls making such serious accusations.

He knows his players - knows their mind-set, their personalities and he also knows the culture of the game down here. Gouging just isn't part of the picture in this part of the world and the Bulls would appear to have been simply trying to antogonise and unsettle a team with whom they have built an intense rivalry. It was a callous and underhand attempt to abuse Sanzar's new white card regime where a referee is compelled to refer any on-field allegations he didn't see to a higher authority. That opens a case file so to speak and creates doubt in the public mind - there is, after all, never smoke without fire.

But the Bulls, somewhat cynically and disturbingly, have found the loophole in the system; the white card regime can create smoke without anyone ever having to light a fire.

Players know when they have been gouged - it's kind of hard to be unaware and the damage is usually obvious. Neither Chiliboy Ralepelle nor Flip van der Merwe have been full of indignation since their claims were dismissed. Neither has been photographed with a damaged eye, remonstrating about the inadequacy of the judicial system.

Everyone will have to draw their own conclusions as to why that is and Sanzar will need to be mindful of more teams abusing the white card system.

Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer. He has written several books on rugby including the Reign of King Henry, Black Obsession and For the Love of the Game.

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