Springboks ‘praised referee’s physical condition to win favour in World Cup final’
South Africa complimented referee Jerome Garces on his physical appearance in order to receive favourable decisions during last year’s Rugby World Cup, a new book into the Springboks’ triumphant campaign has revealed.
Rassie Erasmus, then South Africa’s head coach and now SA Rugby’s director of rugby, launched an extensive study into the mannerisms of all the game’s top referees following South Africa’s controversial 12-11 defeat by England in November 2018, when Owen Farrell was surprisingly not penalised for a high tackle late in the game.
The book, Miracle Men, written by Lloyd Burnard, examines how Erasmus turned South Africa around in his two years as head coach, with the research that went into understanding the game’s leading referees in order to potentially get the rub of the green proving beneficial in Japan.
South Africa comfortably defeated England in the final, with Garces on the whistle.
“The research included analysis on how the referees blew games of rugby, from scrummaging to the dark arts at the breakdown and the offside line,” Burnard writes, in an excerpt published by SA Rugby
Magazine. “But it went much deeper than that. The level of detail in the refereeing reports included personality traits, all with the hope of finding an edge. The Springboks would role-play at team meetings and at training sessions, practising what they would say to the match officials with the research in mind.
“The report compiled on Garces, for example, revealed he responded well to being complimented on his physical appearance. If the match was fast-paced, the Boks would make a point of praising Garces on his condition and his ability to keep up with the players, hoping to rub him up the right way.”
The book also details how South Africa assigned players with individual roles when it came to interacting with Garces. Duane Vermeulen, the man of the match in the final, would raise any concerns, while captain Siya Kolisi would take a more respectful approach.
Having recognised that Garces favoured sides who showed “a clean set-piece” at the scrum and lineout, Springbok hookers Bonga Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx were put in charge of ensuring both areas remained well-structured.
Charm offensive: Research suggested referee Jerome Garces responded well to praise