Sharks happy with referee

2010-10-28 00:00

WHILE the Western Province supporters, and captain Schalk Burger, are unlikely to be as enthusiastic, Sharks coach John Plumtree has welcomed the appointment of Craig Joubert as the referee for Saturday evening’s Currie Cup final at King’s Park.

Joubert, an experienced Test referee born and bred in Pietermaritzburg, handled the Super 14 final at the Orlando Stadium at the end of May and was later publicly accused of bias by Burger, the Stormers captain, after the Bulls came away with a 25-17 win.

Burger told millions of television viewers immediately after his team’s defeat that Joubert had blown one set of rules for the Stormers and another for the Bulls at the breakdown. He later repeated his criticisms at the media conference and his views were endorsed by his coach Allister Coetzee.

In a sequel to Burger’s astonishing outburst, André Watson, South African refereeing boss, released statistics from the final which disproved Burger’s allegations. He added that it was “sad” that a captain could stand up “and basically call the referee a cheat.”

Somehow Burger and Coetzee escaped disciplinary action after Sanzar officials declined to take action against the Stormers pair, setting an extraordinary precedent by refusing to protect their referees.

Plumtree, looking ahead to Saturday’s final, said that he was delighted Joubert would be in charge because of how he refereed the breakdown.

“It’s great that we have Craig Joubert as the referee because he’s very accurate in the breakdown area. He will ensure that the area is competitive, but he will also referee it properly.”

The Sharks coach said it is crucial that the referee is “hard on both teams” at the breakdown.

“Everyone must play to the set of rules in place because that enables both teams to play their game.”

Plumtree could not resist a swipe at Province following the outcry after the Super 14 final.

“I think there is still some [bad] habits there from Province. They are fairly destructive in that area and will certainly attack our ball.

“Of course, we will also attack them at the breakdown, but it is about making sure its reffed properly and that the game flows. Craig understands that side of it. I don’t think he will be thinking back to the Super 14 final and I don’t think Province will either. It’s a new game.”

The rival coaches, Plumtree and Province’s Coetzee, disagree on the importance of the breakdown. While Coetzee said this week that the battle in that area would decide the final, Plumtree said he did not think “the game will be won or lost there.”

“But it certainly is an important area because if you don’t get quick ball or turn ball over, you don’t get your game going and build momentum.

“Both sets of loose forwards are very competitive in nature and very destructive in the way they go about their business. Then add to that the tight five and some big backs and it’s going to be an area of real fireworks,” Plumtree said.

Coetzee told reporters in Cape Town that his team would be better prepared on Saturday than they were for the Super 14 final in Soweto.

The week’s break had provided a welcome break, he said.

“Everything is a lot less rushed than it was, for instance, before the Super 14 final against the Bulls. Last week we could have a proper think about things, do all our tactical planning, and now this week we are starting to put it into practice on the training field.”

He said the final would be exceptionally tough.

“Defence is going to be vital, not just in stopping the Sharks but also in forcing the mistakes that maybe we can exploit. The Sharks are a very physical team, and like most finals, this game will have a massive physical component to it. The breakdowns, collisions and the contact areas in general will be where this game is won and lost.”

Brian van Zyl, the Sharks CEO, said yesterday that he expected the final to be an all-ticket affair.

“About 2 000 tickets were returned to us from other unions this week and we sold 1 000 on Tuesday. There is a queue here now for tickets so I’m expecting a capacity crowd on Saturday,” he added.

The final kicks off at 5.30 pm on Saturday.

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