Blowing the whistle: No more pointing fingers at the ref

2008-06-27 00:00

Rory Kockott was the toast of Durban after he kicked a last-minute penalty for a squeaky 28-25 victory over Western Province in their opening Currie Cup match played in Durban last weekend, but the Sharks should be thanking the law-makers.

With time ticking away and the steady downpour making both sides think of settling for a draw rather than risk a wayward pass, Province found themselves the first victims of an experiment that allows the referee to refer matters other than try-scoring to the television match official.

The TMO adjudged that a WP player had stamped on an opponent at a ruck and Kockott, ice-cool in the cold and wet, slotted the kick from 40 metres to ensure that the braai fires would be burning long into the night on the King’s Park outer fields.

At first I felt that it was an excellent call by touch judge Kobus Wessels to alert referee Christie du Preez to call on the TMO, Michael Cupido, to rule on possible foul play by Western Province. The replay clearly showed an unidentified Province player having a full go at Sharks prop Deon Carstens. Cupido confirmed the foul play and the rest is history.

Sharks supporters lauded the new law application and I must agree these sort of incidents are exactly why the TMO can help the officials. The only problem, in hindsight, is that it all just seemed a bit rushed. First, the TMO could not identify the Province player that stamped on Carstens. It would not have taken long for the TMO to realise that the only Western Province player in the forwards wearing a scrumcap was Francois van der Merwe. Any kind of caution or yellow card would have complemented the decision and put to rest any problems Province might have had with the call. Second, it may be argued that Carstens instigated the incident in attempting to collapse the maul and should also have been punished. Third, if Saru wants consistency with the use of the TMO then all cases of foul play must be reported to the referee and not just the one in the very last minute of the game. In the 17th minute, Sharks captain Johann Muller was seen throwing a barrage of punches in front of his own post that went unsighted by all the officials. Although we might argue that it is up to the match commissioner to act on such incidences, Province will feel aggrieved.

The TMO must surely become more involved and maybe Saru should think of having a viewing booth next to the field for the on-field officials to have a facility where they might review an incident if they wish. It just takes away the pressure from the TMO as he is not held responsible for anything that happens on the field of play. The referee always cops the blame afterwards and, in my opinion, it will assist the referees knowing there is an easy way to clarify a tight or difficult call.

A hollow victory for the Sharks, maybe, but in my opinion Saru is on the right track to use the TMO more to get the correct result.

There has to be some sympathy for Christie du Preez, the referee, as he was a late replacement for Willie Roos who broke his ankle in a freakish accident while refereeing in Japan. Du Preez showed all the encouraging signs that can make him a quality referee for the future, but he did seem to lose concentration in the last 10 minutes of the game when he heavily penalised Province.

It was a crazy couple of weeks for Saru referees. Not only did they lose Roos to injury, but Mark Lawrence is now out for a month after being involved in a major motor vehicle accident this week.

Lawrence emerged with only minor injuries but had to forfeit refereeing today’s Test between France and Australia in Sydney. We wish both these referees a speedy recovery.

•Michael Katzenellebogen is a former Test referee living in Pietermaritzburg. Your views to refscorner@mweb.co.za

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