The standard of modern-day refereeing

Written by Jonathan Burt (VinChainSaw)

Posted in :Original Content on 18 Feb 2008 at 15:28
Tagged with :

I know what most people, especially those north of the Jukskei, will say when I again bring up the standard of top-level refereeing currently in world rugby.Most would call it sour grapes as a refereeing error cost the Stormers their opening game in this year’s Super14.

Some of our friends in the antipodes would probably call me a hypocrite as it was poor refereeing that effectively gifted us a world cup title without having to face the arch-nemesis, the New Zealand All Blacks, in last years World Cup.

However, I feel it is something that needs to be highlighted.

So the likes of Andre Watson, as manager of SA Referees, Steve Meintjies, as chairman of SA Referees and Paddy o’Brien, as referee manager for the IRB would do well to continue reading.

You lot like to comment that everybody makes mistakes etc etc etc. And while true its still costing teams valuable results and, with rugby being a professional sport, is costing teams and unions money.

It seems to me that while the game has gone more professional referees have been left behind. The old calls of accountability have again surfaced and maybe its time to introduce another official onto the field or simply retrain referees to spot modern-day mistakes.

Fact is that more close games than ever before are being decided by referees.

In the last 12 months alone, off the top of my head, both the Super14 final and the World Cup were significantly influenced by the quality of the refereeing.

NZ was dumped out of the World Cup and lost by only two points despite France scoring from an obvious forward pass and referee Wayne Barnes awarding France nine penalties to New Zealand’s two, with none going the way of New Zealand in the entire second half.

The yellow carding of Luke McAlister was also dubious and France scored 17 points when he was in the sin bin.

He had been warned but upon reviewing the footage it would appear as if the French player ran into him and then claimed the obstruction, something they might have learned from their football compatriots.

But obstruction aside, the penalty count tells its own story as does the forward pass that broke the New Zealanders.

All, in all, a shocking display which had a material effect on the eventual results.

O’Brien can call it what he likes but the fact that Barnes was appointed to such a big game after having only blown his first professional game 8 months earlier is also not lost as well as the fact that he bottled it. Badly.

Then rewind to a few short months earlier and you’ll see the Bulls win the Super14 trophy in the dying minutes to what can only be described as an unlucky Sharks team.

Deep into injury-time a knock-on by Derick Hougaard gifted Habana a try that sealed the deal for the Bulls who walked away champions, having won the game by one point.

In both the above examples not only the referee but also the touch judges missed these rather obvious errors.

What I cant understand is what they were doing at that point? Surely in the final minutes of the final of the Super14 you’d think they would have eagle eyes and be paying a bit more attention. Sadly not.

And in conclusion I have the third example of the last twelve months. By no means least and by no means have there been only these three shocking refereeing performances, but due to time constraints, sore fingers and poor memory this will be the last example posted today.

Ladies and gentlemen I give you Willie Roos who seems stuck in a time warp and unable to distinguish between the old laws as we know it and the new ELVs being trialled. So what was produced was a sort of quasi mix of the two with nobody really knowing what they could or could not do thanks to virtually no policing by our esteemed referee and more bark than bite on the field.

Now I wasn’t able to watch the game live but, thanks to a friendly soul and a super-fast broadband connection, was able to watch it 100% sober, albeit delayed.

I was amazed. I felt Willie didn’t really know what he was doing and failed to lay down the law.

A normally pedantic referee known for blowing a game to pieces, he seemed shocked and out-of-sorts, again having a large influence on the game.

Warning the Bulls, he failed to follow through, allowing the ball to be slowed to such a degree that it was taking ages to emerge from rucks, totally undoing the purpose of the ELVs.

What was a relatively free-flowing game in the first half became staid and tight as the Bulls slowed down the ball with ref Willie unwilling to address the issue.

Dubious refereeing also resulted in the only try of the game, although in my opinion and that of Tappa Henning, it should never have been given.

While the Bulls nevertheless deserved the win it may have been an entirely different kettle of fish had the Stormers gone into the half-time break 9-0 up instead of 9-7 up.

Now every player I’ve ever played with will test a referee just to see what they could get away with. If the ref doesn’t blow then you push it a little further the next time.

And I fear this is exactly what happened over the weekend. When the Bulls saw Willie not blowing they pushed and pushed and pushed. And he did nothing. To the detriment of the game and totalling negating the point of the new laws.

All in all, Willie Roos, hang your head in shame. Its not the first time you’ve been on the end of criticism and I fear it will not be the last time. If you were a player you’d be warming the bench by now or looking for a new province. As it is we have to put up with your erratic refereeing game after game after game as you are seemingly untouchable.

My biggest bugbear at the moment is that the ELVs were introduced into the Super14 and the referee, in this case Willie Roos, seemed to have no clue as to how to police them.

In my humble opinion the only thing that was wrong with the game in the first place was that referees weren’t blowing to the rules. They allowed things to sneak into the game that shouldn’t be allowed.

The best example of this is the referees continually having to shout hands-out (before ELVs) in the ruck situation. In my opinion there are 30 professional players on the field who play rugby all day long – they should damned well know when they can use their hands and when not without being told!

If that had been sorted out instead of the introduction, and hasty trialling, of these new laws we’d have no problems and these new laws wouldn’t be necessary. Some fo the most entertaining rugby over the weekend was in the Guiness Premiwership where there are no new laws being trialled. Reference Saracens v Newcastle and Bath v Wasps, both cracking games.

As it stand the laws are doomed from the offset if the referees don’t lift their game considerably and start blowing per the laws as laid down.

If any need a copy they should please contact me and I’ll gladly send over a free photocopy.

As for Willie Roos, eish boetie.


  • From Granger’s latest piece on IOL… “…and after the game SA Rugby director of referees Andrรฉ Watson and his assistant, Tappe Henning, were spotted in earnest conversation with Roos. All three men then retreated into the referee’s change room to continue the debate.”

  • Comment 1, posted at 18.02.08 15:47:10 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Just to add to this: the excuse that the refs arent used to the ELVs is nonsense.
    They’ve known for ages that these laws would be trialled in the Super14 and therefore had ample opportunity to get the referees experiecned and up to speed.
    They could have flown them into Oz to ref a few MARC games or had the country’s top referees reffing down in Stellenbosch.

    Another question – why the haste to get the laws trailled in the Super14?

  • Comment 2, posted at 18.02.08 15:48:00 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • When KSA was still reffing in SA, he was ‘evaluated’ after almost every game. The idea is that an official goes through it and points out the good and bad of your reffing so you can learn from your mistakes.
    I can only assume this happens at the top level but it doesn’t seem to be improving their games ????
    And then if their games don’t improve, why are they not removed from the panel ???
    We all know the names of refs that make us cringe when we see them listed to ref our team, if they can’t cut it, THEY need to be cut, simple IMO !

  • Comment 3, posted at 18.02.08 16:03:55 by KSA Sharkette Reply

    KSA Sharkette
  • Kette – if they removed them from the panel after every bad game – we wouldn’t have any refs left! There are very few decent ones left.

  • Comment 4, posted at 18.02.08 16:13:02 by Nessa Reply

  • Nessa, the alternative is then playing pointless games where the result is determined by the referee lottery and not the players on the field.

    Its actually a disgrace and a huge blight on the game.

    But instead of tackling the issue they rather skirt around it with law variations and excuses.

    I reckon the Americans have it spot-on in the NFL.

  • Comment 5, posted at 18.02.08 16:17:07 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • And Nessa, its not one game.

    ITs game after game after game.

  • Comment 6, posted at 18.02.08 16:19:03 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • And I thought that the ref was favouring the Stormers.

    Nessa is 100% right – if refs were removed from the panel after every bad game then we would not have any left and that means that as Vin pointed out we are now “playing pointless games where the result is determined by the referee lottery and not the players on the field.”

  • Comment 7, posted at 18.02.08 16:36:24 by Salmonoid Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • I found it seriously frustrating watching from the sidelines how rubbish refs remained and sometimes even advanced ahead of KSA, for various reason – age, race, etc.
    There are so few refs and sadly the not so good are starting to outnumber the decent.
    True Nessa, I agree if we starting cutting the dead-wood, there’s not going to be anything/much left but if we expect to have players chosen on merit, surely the same should be applied for the refs ?

  • Comment 8, posted at 18.02.08 16:36:35 by KSA Sharkette Reply

    KSA Sharkette
  • if refs were removed from the panel after every bad game then we would not have any left
    I am not suggesting after every game, I said that after every game there is a review process to enable that ref to work on his game.

    The problem I see is that they obviously are not. In any situation, you get a chance to improve/fix, if you don’t, what happens ?

    These refs are being paid very decent money to do their “job”. What emplyer is happy for you to make endless mistakes and continue to pay you, pat you on the back and ask you to do it again ?
    Take away the job and therefore the money, maybe thats enough incentive to sort out the problems with your game.

  • Comment 9, posted at 18.02.08 16:42:30 by KSA Sharkette Reply

    KSA Sharkette
  • RobDylan, this site ate my post.

    Can anyone let me know what the laws/rules are regarding a spear tackle, surely it must be an automatic card, preferably red.

  • Comment 10, posted at 18.02.08 16:42:40 by Salmonoid Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • I can almost guarantee you the same administrative ineptitude that is prevalent in SARU is prevalent in the ref administration.

    Only difference is that refs cant use superior genetics and their larger bulk to make up for their lack of talent.

  • Comment 11, posted at 18.02.08 16:43:56 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • “What emplyer is happy for you to make endless mistakes and continue to pay you, pat you on the back and ask you to do it again?”
    18.02.08 16:42:30 – KSA Sharkette

    SARU??? ๐Ÿ˜›

  • Comment 12, posted at 18.02.08 16:45:31 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • 18.02.08 16:42:40 – Salmonoid
    KSA will be online tomorrow – busy with his drive from one side of saudi to our side…
    He can confirm. Will say, during the game though, he questioned the fact that no card was given at all !

  • Comment 13, posted at 18.02.08 16:47:03 by KSA Sharkette Reply

    KSA Sharkette
  • gimme a sec, checking for the IRB law book on the bookshelf

  • Comment 14, posted at 18.02.08 16:48:27 by KSA Sharkette Reply

    KSA Sharkette
  • Well something should be done to the refs because as sure as nuts its almost always the same refs that are getting it wrong.
    I find it bloody magnanimous of Hangkas Henning pronouncing on another refs performance, regardless of how poor it was

  • Comment 15, posted at 18.02.08 16:51:06 by Salmonoid Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • SARU???
    18.02.08 16:45:31 – Big Fish

    sounds like the best employer out there then ๐Ÿ˜†
    where can I send my application ๐Ÿ˜†

  • Comment 16, posted at 18.02.08 16:51:28 by KSA Sharkette Reply

    KSA Sharkette
  • Thanks Kette, How long does it take for that drive?

  • Comment 17, posted at 18.02.08 16:53:45 by Salmonoid Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • about 16hrs

  • Comment 18, posted at 18.02.08 16:56:43 by KSA Sharkette Reply

    KSA Sharkette
  • In that case have a cold one at hand.

  • Comment 19, posted at 18.02.08 16:58:24 by Salmonoid Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • In that case have a cold one at hand.
    you must be refering to a coke right ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Comment 20, posted at 18.02.08 17:07:01 by KSA Sharkette Reply

    KSA Sharkette
  • Springboks have just been announced winners of the Laureus world sport team of the year award, held in St Petersburg.
    Good Stuff Bokke.

  • Comment 21, posted at 18.02.08 17:09:25 by Salmonoid Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • Yeah right, all refs drink coke dont they?

  • Comment 22, posted at 18.02.08 17:11:23 by Salmonoid Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • Salmonoid
    take a look at this PDF :

    Spear tackles do not appear on their own, only in foul play…
    If you read through this pdf of law 10 (foul play)from the IRB website, it details penalties etc. but not whether a card would/should/could be given.

    Strange though that this article from 2005 seems to show the IRB were looking to crack down on this dangerous play, and yet it doesn’t show in the law ???

    May be best to just wait for KSA, but it was very interesting to look in to.

  • Comment 23, posted at 18.02.08 17:23:08 by KSA Sharkette Reply

    KSA Sharkette
  • Salmonoid

    This is a pdf of law 10 (foul play) from the IRB website. It doesn’t mention anything specific about spear tackles or whether they should/could/would have a card given.

    Strange though because after reading this article from 2005, it seemed like the IRB were wanting to crack down on this very dangerous play.

    May be best to just wait for KSA hehehe was interesting looking for the info though !

  • Comment 24, posted at 18.02.08 17:27:10 by KSA Sharkette Reply

    KSA Sharkette
  • #$##$#%^ I am not retyping my message for the third time, is SPAM eating my post because I have a link in it ?????

  • Comment 25, posted at 18.02.08 17:28:45 by KSA Sharkette Reply

    KSA Sharkette
  • yes – I think so. Let me go see if I can change the setting

  • Comment 26, posted at 18.02.08 17:30:48 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • thanks rob

  • Comment 27, posted at 18.02.08 17:31:23 by KSA Sharkette Reply

    KSA Sharkette
  • Kette
    Thanks for the effort, my late acknowledgement is because of lack of access and not lack of appreciation of your effort.

    The way I read it the ref is within his rights to take whatever action he feels like as long as he takes some action….

    (Any player who infringes any part of the Foul Play law must be
    admonished, or cautioned and temporarily suspended, or sent-of)

    KSA will no doubt help us with this one.

  • Comment 28, posted at 19.02.08 09:06:19 by Salmonoid Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • After a long nap!

  • Comment 29, posted at 19.02.08 10:00:57 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator

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