Mind Games: Fans cheered the wrong man for that penalty

2014-10-13 10:00

Doubtless many bottles and cans of the sponsor’s product were raised to toast Patrick Lambie last Saturday night but, as it turned out, fans were acknowledging the wrong man.

Sure, it was Lambie who kicked a glorious penalty from 55m out to give the Springboks a long-awaited victory over the All Blacks. But he might not have had a penalty to kick without the intervention of a faceless technician, sitting in front of the screens in an outside broadcast unit in the parking lot of the stadium.

There can be no doubt the Springboks earned their crucial penalty – and subsequent victory. But it was thanks to the intervention of SuperSport’s television crew.

A sharp-eyed replay director spotted All Black Liam Messam’s shoulder hit on Schalk Burger – hardly noticeable and over in a flash in real time – and informed the broadcast director that he had a game-changing clip.

In the match itself, play had already moved upfield by about 25m from where the incident occurred (5m inside the Springbok half). Referee Wayne Barnes had awarded the All Blacks a turnover scrum.

With less than three minutes left to play, it seemed the All Blacks – having at one stage trailed 24-13 – would hang on for a 25-24 victory by winning the ball, holding on to it and playing out the remaining time.

But even as the players were untangling themselves from the collapsed maul that resulted in the “scrum to the All Blacks” decision, a replay of Messam’s shoulder hit on Burger flashed up on the big screens.

Needless to say, the crowd responded vociferously and, as it turned out, erroneously – because the next replay was not sequential. It showed the maul that resulted in the scrum, making it look as though both incidents occurred in the same place on the field.

The SuperSport director then showed the shoulder hit repeatedly – and that is why Bok skipper Jean de Villiers asked the referee to take another look.

Interestingly, the TMO (television match official), England’s Graham Hughes, at first suggested there was nothing in Messam’s tackle because Burger was falling, but Barnes insisted on seeing it for himself.

He then decided Messam’s indiscretion did not warrant a yellow card and awarded the Boks a penalty – which most in the crowd thought was on the wrong part of the field because the replays hadn’t indicated a clear separation between the two incidents.

The All Blacks sportingly chose not to complain about the manner in which the penalty had come about (perhaps because there have been puzzling TV interventions that have favoured them in New Zealand). But the sequence of events highlighted to what extent the result of a match can be skewed by an outside agency – in this case, the home broadcaster.

Given SuperSport’s undeniably sycophantic stance towards the big sports it broadcasts (rugby, cricket and football), it is alarming to think that fans watching TV monitors are able to change a match official’s mind.

As much as the Boks deserved their victory, the winning kick came about because of the connivance of SuperSport. It is one thing to have a line-up of praise singers in the commentary booths but quite another when they actively intervene in the game itself.

It leads to the question: is Heyneke Meyer in touch with the broadcast director? When he speaks so animatedly into his little microphone to relay instructions to his staff on the touch line, is it because he can hear the off-air voices involved in the broadcast?

Did Meyer know that Messam’s tackle would be hyped up and did he get a message to De Villiers to eyeball the referee?

Worse, is Meyer playing to the camera in the coach’s box because he knows he is about to be on air?

There is also the question of fairness. At the very last ruck of the game, within comfortable kicking distance of South Africa’s posts, Schalk Burger was obviously offside.

This, of course, was not revisited.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.