From what I can gather, back in the days of Danie Craven, visiting international rugby teams were on the receiving end of more than a few dubious decisions by South African referees, which made it almost impossible to win in South Africa. Even after 1994 and readmission, some New Zealanders still believe that their players were poisoned before the 1995 World Cup final.
What I do know is that Louis Luyt, at the official dinner for the Springboks and the New Zealand All Blacks, following the Bok's narrow victory over the All Blacks in the final, in a speech described by the New Zealand media as "boorish", he declared that if they had played, South Africa would have won the previous two Rugby World Cups including the 1987 tournament won by the All Blacks.
In response, the All Blacks walked out of the dinner. During that same dinner, he also caused controversy by publicly thanking referee Derek Bevan for his refereeing during the semi-final between France and South Africa; Bevan had denied France a last-minute try, despite it looking like Frenchman, Abdelatif Benazzi, had grounded the ball over the try line on the slow motion action replay. (There was no television match official at that time). Had the try been allowed, France would have taken the lead. Luyt invited Bevan onto stage to accept an expensive gold watch, leading to a mass walkout, with Bevan himself leaving the room.
I don’t believe that South Africans collectively condoned Luyt’s behavior that night. I for one, remember being angry and embarrassed by what I regarded as a brazen display of arrogance and stupidity. I wanted to win, but I wanted to win fair and square and I believe that the majority of South Africans felt the same way. I certainly had not signed on to this type of leadership.
After that the notorious Keith Lawrence, father of Bryce Lawrence and former head of NZRU referees, who has also been employed by the IRB, had his emails exposed and well-publicized saying 'let’s get the Japies'. It is therefore not beyond imagination to believe that New Zealand and Australian administrators had already banded together at that point, for payback, and maybe this attitude has been brought forward into the modern era of professional rugby?
If this is the case, it’s also not hard to believe that New Zealand and Australia are smart enough to professionalise their modus operandi, now that we are in the professional era. As far as I can tell they have infiltrated the system in such a way that between SANZAR and the IRB, New Zealand and Australia together control, almost every crucial decision making position in rugby. It seems to me that everything in rugby favours New Zealand first and then Australia, from the draw, to the travel schedules, to the byes, to the choice of referees, linesmen, assistants, TMO’s, citing commissions etc. Don’t let me get started about Richie McCaw and how much he gets away with, right in front of the nose of the referee!
Just the memory of the following names (to name but a few) raises the hairs on my neck. Keith Lawrence (New Zealand), Paddy O’Brien (New Zealand), Peter Marshall (Australia), Stuart Dickenson (Australia), Paul Honiss (New Zealand), Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand), and citing specialists Terry Willis (Australia), Michael Cashman (Australia), Bruce Squire (New Zealand)
Why for example did Terry Willis (from Australia) adjudicate Bismarck's red card? Should it not have been a neutral official given the context of The Rugby Championships? Why did the citing commission not cite Nonu whose tackle on Jean De Villiers made Bismark’s Messam incident look like a friendly cuddle?
It would appear that even most of the new laws of the game are introduced by, and designed to suit New Zealand and Australia. (Having said that, the latest scrum rule isn’t working for them, so I predict that this law will be scrapped, particularly given that Kiwis were decimated by the Boks in the first scrum on Saturday!)
The very fact that the IRB and SANZAR dictates that no player or coach can speak openly about the referee, in my opinion, is designed to help control the psyche of the fans! Well the tide is turning, social media and social networking has arrived and the masses are rising in protest. We want fair play! Bryce Lawrence is gone and over 61000 enraged fans are gunning for Poite. But the reality is that Poite is not the source of the problem. I blame our history and subsequently the IRB and SANZAR's leadership and their influence over the officials.
Jake White, I believe, was a master at handling the IRB referees during the World Cup in France. From what I can gauge, he anticipated and outsmarted the New Zealander Paddy O'Brien (then IRB head of referees) by pre-empting that South Africa would be targeted (as usual) and used the media to his advantage. So when Schalk Burger was unfairly targeted early on, the media picked up on White's predictions and it looked to me like O'Brien's team were forced to back down before knock out stages. I believe that without this tactical stroke of genius by Jake White, South Africa would never have won the world cup in France.
Fast forward to the world cup hosted by New Zealand where New Zealander Bryce Lawrence (again part of Paddy O'Brien's crew and son of notorious Keith Lawrence) ignored (in my opinion) over 60 penalisable offences and allowed Australia to win a game with countless transgression and less than 30% possession. Problem? We were just not smart enough during this world cup to see it coming. We played the best rugby I have ever seen us play and still lost and I blame our administrators for allowing it.
It seems that somewhere along the way, South Africans rediscovered some degree of collective moral compass. Our constitution is ranked as one of the most progressive in the world and the majority of South Africans loathe corruption in any form, especially in sport. Sport in this country influences our collective mood. We want to win, but we want to win fair and square. We don’t condone our referees being biased, especially not in our favour. Maybe it was because of our notorious history that people are so eager to prove themselves on a level playing field. So it doesn’t really matter what nationality the ref is, as long as he is fair and consistent.
Personally I think it’s time that the IRB, SANZAR and rugby, collectively makes a truce that promotes, encourages and rewards fair play.
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