Several episodes over the weekend involving match officials yet again shifted the focus from where it should be.
Let me start off by saying that the two red cards were fully deserved, and warrant further action against Jean Deysel and Ed O’Donoghue for stomping and eye gouging, respectively.
James Horwil, skipper of the Reds went as far as deliberately criticising the referee in the post-match interview.
“In the end, once again we were robbed by a stupid refereeing decision. It’s getting beyond a joke. It’s ruining the spectacle that Super Rugby is. Super Rugby has always been about expansive rugby but it’s going out of the game because too much of the game is being slowed down to look back (at incidents)” according to an article on the Supersport webpage.
He may well cast his mind back to 2009 when Schalk Burger was also found guilty of a similar transgression in a test against the B & I Lions. The British media, true to form, went ballistic, and Schalk was eventually banned for eight weeks.
The Canadian judicial officer Alan Hudson, who heard the case, found Burger guilty of committing an act contrary to good sportsmanship by “making contact with the face in the eye area” of Fitzgerald, but concluded that he did not find the player’s actions intentional, but believed them to be “clearly reckless”.
You can refresh your memory by clicking here to view the Burger incident.
There was clear intent on the part of O’Donogue to make contact with his opponent’s face, and there was contact with the eye socket. For Horwil to now bitch about how far back the TMO took the match ignores the seriousness of the transgression.
Was there instigation?
I am quite sure there was, in both red card incidents, but that does not warrant retaliation to the extent we saw on Saturday.
Without trying in any way to exonerate Deysel’s stupid stomping, there were numerous incidents of Crusaders players holding back opponents to prevent them from joining the action.
One particular incident happened when Frans Steyn’s brilliant break and clever off-load led to Sithole’s try. About 25 metres behind the actual ball carrier, a Sharks player was held back by an opponent. This has in fact become a trade mark of the Crusaders, and nothing is being done about it.
Surely if repeated infringements by a team can lead to a yellow card for one player, the same should apply to this transgression? Horwil complains about the time lost for repeated kyk-weers, but what if the result of a game is affected by players being prevented from taking part?
I believe that this should form part of the duties of the TMO. The assistant referees follow the match, but a timely warning to referee, and a warning to the offending team’s captain, can prevent this from becoming an issue. The problem is that the team concerned is the Crusaders, and the captain McCaw. Untouchables at times, in the view of some.
Et Tutu, Alberts?
Pieter de Villiers, in one of his many colourful expressions, remarked that rugby is not a game where you put on a tutu. The yellow card against Willem Alberts was very harsh. The ball carrier threw a dummy, and Alberts, not unlike an oil tanker, went for the intended recipient. If Alberts was a ballet dancer in drag, I suppose you could justify the yellow card, maar hy is ‘n groot seun wat nie sommer sy momentum kan stuit nie. A penalty was justified, but not a yellow card.
Three out of four not too shabby, Nige
The Cheetahs and the Stormers made us proud on Saturday when they handsomely beat two formidable Australian opponents in the Brumbies and Force, respectively. With a number of injured players on the come-back trail, the clash between the two at Newlands promises to be a great contest.
Fortunately the Reds have usurped the wooden spoon, for now, and even the Lions have slipped behind them on the log, with their last tour match, against the Force, looming on Saturday.
The victory by the Sharks, against all odds, will do a lot to remind the rugby world of the never-say-die spirit of South African rugby players. While dishing out accolades, let us not forget the role of Jake White, and his massive influence in this achievement.