Aimee Barrett-Theron and Embrose Papier (Gallo)
The Bulls ended a 10-year trophy drought by beating the Pumas 21-5 on Saturday to win the South African Super Rugby Unlocked competition, but history was also being made by the referee.
For the first time in South African rugby, a top-level 15-a-side match was refereed by a woman.
Aimee Barrett-Theron, 33, was the history maker and gave a flawless performance at a rain-soaked Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria as the Bulls triumphed after leading 21-0 at half-time.
“This is not how we scrum – sort it out,” she instructed the rival front rows two minutes before the break after yet another set-piece reset.
“That is unnecessary – do not do that,” Barrett-Theron told Bulls full-back David Kriel after he pushed an opponent in an off-the-ball incident during the second half.
Barrett-Theron has been a familiar figure as an assistant referee throughout the course of the tournament, but on Saturday she was elevated to the role of match referee.
Turning his attention to the significance of the win, Bulls captain and Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok loose forward Duane Vermeulen said: “It is great to be champions again after 10 years even though our performance was not up to standard.
“We let ourselves down in performing basics like lineouts and scrums due to a lack of concentration, especially in the second half.”
The Bulls’ first triumph since winning the Super Rugby title in 2010 confirmed former Springboks coach Jake White as a worldwide master at reviving the fortunes of teams.
He transformed South Africa from quarter-finals losers at the 2003 Rugby World Cup to winners of the next edition four years later.
White then improved the ACT Brumbies in Australia, the Sharks in South Africa, Montpellier in France, Toyota Verblitz in Japan before joining the Bulls.