SA gets short end of rugby officials’ stick
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.