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Try, No try?

Two major controversial incidents (the uncontested scrums and McCaw’s try) in last week’s heart breaking defeat against the All Blacks keeps being regurgitated in media reports.

I find the views of Jonathan Kaplan very interesting, although not entirely convincing, much as I respect the man. His blog, Rate the Ref, contains his views on these issues:

“We lacked leadership when we lost Koch through injury. The referee may well have assumed that both tightheads were injured, but WE should have taken the bull by the horns and insisted that Nyakane is well qualified to play in that role. He has, after all, played international rugby in that position. The referee would never have said, sorry Boks, an international tighthead can’t play tighthead. Uncontested scrums are the worst possible scenario for World Rugby after player safety (and given that Trevor has played tighthead many, many times, that was NOT a factor as was expressed after the game). It’s not good enough to allow a competitive advantage to be nullified when we have them on the ropes. We got nothing for our superiority. I don’t mind forgoing the 3 points on offer. I’m all for backing yourself in those situations, but then don’t stop pushing the envelope. That is the difference between the cultures on display on Saturday.”

I read that Nyakane was shown as a loose head prop on the team sheet, and could therefore not replace a tight head. That is one of the rules of rugby – a stupid one, under the circumstances, but still a rule. I am not too sure whether the players and the referee can agree to bend a rule, and surely, had they asked McCaw, he would not have agreed, despite being the great sportsman that he is.

“So on to the McCaw try. As a receiver, he has to stand 2m away from the lineout. It is questionable whether he was. Moreover, he cannot move into the lineout to receive the ball until the ball has left the hands of the thrower. It is clear he does start moving before the ball has left the hands of the hooker. The referee never had a clue what was going on. One can see with his body language, that he was quite happy to award the try. Not even a referral! No TMO intervention either. And crucially, where was our leadership to INSIST that this important and defining score be verified. Now I really like Schalk Burger as a human being, and I admire him as a rugby player, so I don’t really want to be too critical, but these are the moments that matter. I’m not sure whether he was empowered to challenge, or whether he did at all, but we needed a result here and there was a window of opportunity to get it, and we didn’t identify it.”

I watched a video clip of the incident with a couple of colleagues. We are of the view that this is such a technical issue that few people lacking Kaplan’s knowledge and expertise would have seen grounds for a TMO intervention, and had no hard feelings about the try being awarded. If every doubtful incident had to be reviewed ad infinitum, there would be no time left to play the game.  

Methinks ‘tis time to move on.

IRB RWC Draw

Kenny Rogers sings, in the Gambler: “You never count your money when you’re sitting at the table/There’ll be time enough for counting when the dealing’s done.”

The All Blacks and the Springboks have drawn the aces when it comes to the pools they are in, unlike France, Wales, England and Ireland.

Given the current state of readiness, I think an easy pool will benefit the “Boks more than the All Blacks. While strong opposition hones the edge of a team, weak opponents can actually blunt the skills of a team on top form.

The Springboks, in turn, are possibly delighted to use the opportunity to do some fine tuning before they hit the playoffs.

If you call me an eternal optimist, I won’t fault your reasoning.

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