SA gets short end of rugby of­fi­cials’ stick

CityPress - - Sport - Dan Retief dan.retief@city­press.co.za Fol­low me on Twit­ter @retief­dan

Rugby’s flawed laws again caused a storm of di­verse opin­ion af­ter last week’s Rugby Cham­pi­onship tests.

The first online skir­mish started when for­mer in­ter­na­tional ref­eree Jonathan Ka­plan, whose views were am­pli­fied in the media, called into ques­tion the le­gal­ity of Richie McCaw’s win­ning try against the Spring­boks.

Ka­plan said on his blog that McCaw and the All Blacks had trans­gressed sev­eral laws gov­ern­ing line-outs to set up the try. What he said went to the tech­ni­cal de­tail of the law, that McCaw was stand­ing too close to the line-out and he and the rest of his team moved be­fore the ball left the thrower’s hands.

Ka­plan might well have been right, but if line-outs were of­fi­ci­ated in this man­ner, none of them would be le­gal.

I also no­ticed many in­stances of the Spring­boks mov­ing early and lift­ing a re­ceiver be­fore the ball was thrown in. Con­test­ing the score did smack of sour grapes. Most spec­ta­tors were happy to con­cede it as a clever ploy that caught the Boks nap­ping.

This was best summed up by All Blacks’ coach Steve Hansen who lamented the fact that his team had to re­veal this tac­tic be­fore the rugby World Cup tour­na­ment.

The other talk­ing point was ref­eree Jérôme Gar­cès’ rul­ing that there should have been un­con­tested scrums af­ter the Spring­boks lost both tight head props, Jan­nie du Plessis and Vin­cent Koch de­spite Trevor Nyakane be­ing a com­pe­tent No 3. With two cru­cial scrums be­ing close to the All Blacks’ line, this was a de­ci­sion that favoured the visi­tors as it seems it was not the ref­eree’s de­ci­sion to make.

But if blame has to be given, it should per­haps be against Bok cap­tain Schalk Burger and the sideof-field man­age­ment that should have protested more strongly.

In­ter­est­ingly, and to my knowl­edge, no one has com­plained that one of the touch judges, who in all prob­a­bil­ity had a hand in the de­ci­sion to de­power the scrums, was a South African bête noire, Ro­main Poite. Next, footage emerged of Aus­tralian flanker Michael Hooper “strik­ing” Ar­gentina fly half Ni­co­las Sanchez, who was il­le­gally hold­ing him back as he chased a ball to the goal line.

“Strik­ing” is a se­ri­ous of­fence – es­pe­cially when penal­ties have been dealt to South African play­ers – and fury broke out on Twit­ter when Hooper’s le­nient pun­ish­ment was an­nounced.

The Aus­tralian was banned for one match – a club game “he was go­ing to play in any­way yesterday”.

Thus Hooper might have been able to serve his sus­pen­sion and be avail­able for what will be the Rugby Cham­pi­onship de­cider be­tween the Wal­la­bies and the All Blacks in Syd­ney on Satur­day.

Yet again the laws were ei­ther un­fairly or in­con­sis­tently ap­plied and there was no get­ting away from the im­pres­sion that our play­ers are treated more harshly by South African, New Zealand and Aus­tralian Rugby (San­zar) of­fi­cials.

What is stag­ger­ing is that ad­min­is­tra­tors have been so lax in sort­ing out the dis­crep­an­cies. There’s just so much that is wrong – the clean-out at the break­down and the for­ward pass are just two ex­am­ples – but each week­end of test rugby pro­duces more ques­tions.

In April, SA Rugby Union pres­i­dent Ore­gan Hoskins said he had had a gut-full. But it seems the cell­phone of San­zar CEO Greg Peters might have been vi­brat­ing off his desk with calls from South Africa af­ter the Hooper judge­ment be­cause it was an­nounced on Fri­day that the one-week ban would be re­viewed.

A small thing that would at least have made Frans Steyn and Bis­marck du Plessis feel there’s some fair­ness left in the world.

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