A “slip of the finger” has been blamed for the mixed and chaotic messages that had fans scampering between Cape Town and Wellington on Friday and Saturday, as the venue for the crucial Boland Cavaliers versus Western Province Currie Cup fixtures was changed repeatedly.
The South African Rugby Union (SARU) administration have come under fire for the shoddy and inept manner in which the whole scenario surrounding the venue for match was handled.
This came amidst threats of court action from the Free State Cheetahs if the match was played anywhere but in Wellington.
By mid-afternoon on Friday SARU sent out a media release announcing that the game had been moved from Wellington’s Boland Stadium to Newlands because of the water-logged field. However, about five hours later another announcement from SARU informed the media and fans that the match is indeed to be played in Wellington.
The initial decision, taken by the two provinces, was forwarded to SARU for approval.
SARU CEO Johan Prinsloo was dispatched to Wellington to inspect the pitch, but before he could make his decision known to SARU President Oregan Hoskins, the media release – announcing a change in venue – was sent out.
Prinsloo confirmed on Saturday that it was an administrative error that allowed the confusing first release to go out.
“While I was on my way to Wellington [to inspect the pitch], somebody’s finger slipped and the message went out,” Prinsloo told rugby365.com.
“When I got to the field [the Boland Stadium in Wellington] I realised that the game could indeed go ahead,” Prinsloo said, adding that he had seen games being played in far worse conditions – including a couple earlier this year at the same venue.
“It [the field] looked bad, because they had removed some patches of grass to pump out the water. But the Boland officials also assured me they had plenty of sand and sawdust on the way to cover the worst parts of the field.
“I returned to Cape Town and informed the President [SARU boss Oregan Hoskins] and the correct message was relayed,” Prinsloo explained.
He also revealed that the SARU officials had a good look at the regulations, following complaints from the Cheetahs, and realised that the call had to be made by the match referee – Christie du Preez.
And the referee made that call at 11.00 (SA time) on Saturday, ruling that the field is playable and not a danger to the players.
“I hope we [SARU] are not the villains of the piece now,” Prinsloo told rugby365.com.
Cheetahs president Harold Verster confirmed that his union would have considered taking legal steps if the game had indeed been moved to Newlands in Cape Town.
“It is a totally laughable decision as it goes against all the rules and regulations that the participating unions agreed to, and this decision was clearly not taken after a proper consultation across all the levels and structure,” Verster told the Independent newspaper group.
“The only guy who can make a decision is the referee, and that decision has to be taken after a field inspection on the morning of the match, when he can decide to postpone the game to a later date.
“We were a in a similar position when we played Boland earlier in the season. There had been 10 days of rain, and we were concerned about the conditions.
“The same referee who was involved then, Christie du Preez, is involved in this situation, so I hope he has thought very hard about it if he is part of this decision. We also complained on the Friday evening, and were told nothing could be done at that stage.”
By Jan de Koning of Rugby 365Tweet