Refereeing caused a few frustrations in Bok match

2007-12-01 00:00

The Springboks played their first game as World Champions on Saturday and they played like champions should.

There was, by way of a change, tribute from the overseas media for the style of rugby played by the Boks. Unfortunately, the praise could not be shared by referee Chris White (England) . He was on the World Cup panel and I think we might have seen the last of him.

It all started for me in the scrum on Saturday where Wales were clearly overpowered by the Springboks. Rhys Thomas (tighthead, Wales) was up against loosehead CJ Van der Linde and he did not bind on to the Bok as the law dictates.


(d) Binding by tight head props. A tight head prop must bind on

the opposing loose head prop by placing the right arm outside the

left upper arm of the opposing loose head prop. The tight head

prop must grip the loose head prop’s jersey with the right hand

only on the back or side. The tight head prop must not grip the

chest, arm, sleeve or collar of the opposition loose head prop. The

tight head prop must not exert any downward pressure.

Penalty: Penalty Kick

In Saturday’s match Thomas did not bind at all — forcing Van der Linde in — and he and got away with it. White’s failure to act made the game look untidy and it continued throughout the match. He also allowed the lineout to become untidy and unless a referee has control of the set phases, the game deteriorates.

This then brings me to the sin-binning of Albert van den Berg into question. He was yellow-carded for a professional foul in the 48th minute after a sustained attack by Wales. Van den Berg was deemed to have played the ball on the ground and killed a Welsh attack close to the goal line. The problem I have with the yellow card is that John Smit and his team-mates had never received a warning.

Later in the half reserve hooker Bismarck du Plessis was also sin-binned moments after taking the field. Neither player had time to adapt to the referee and this caused major frustration for the Boks during the game.

The players should perhaps know better but a referee at this level should also show some empathy. Du Plessis appeared particularly aggrieved and certainly the replay showed that he did little wrong. As a referee you need to be extremely accurate with this type of call.

It was not all bad from Chris White as I am of the opinion that the advantage he played during the game was superb. His advantage leading to the Ryan Kankowski try was a case in point. South Africa won a turnover on the 22 metre line of Wales and were going backwards in the ensuing ruck and maul. Ricky Januarie pleaded for the infringement to be blown, but White trusted his instinct and let play continue. Schalk Burger moved the ball wide and the Boks scored the try. This came from White’s vast experience over the years and must have been a satisfying aspect of the game for him.

There was an interesting decision in the Heineken Cup match between Bristol and Stade Francais a fortnight ago. Shaun Perry of Bristol kicked high down to the touchline on his right. Bristol fullback Luke Arscott chased the ball as Nicolas Jeanjean of Stade Français closed in on it. Arscott stepped into touch just before jumping for the ball and then knocked it into the field of play. Play continued. Correct?

This has always baffled me as a referee/touch judge. The law in this regard is still very antiquated and seems to favour the attacking side. The law:

Law 19. A player in touch may kick or knock the ball but not hold it, provided it has not crossed the plane of the touch-line. The plane of the touch-line is the vertical space rising immediately above the touch-line.

Arscott began his jump with his foot in touch and knocked it back while he was in midair, but the ball itself had not crossed the plane of touch. So it was a good call from the touch judge. What concerns me a little is that in rugby union if the ball touches the touchline it is out, but here it seems it has to cross the line of touch to be called out.

In an interesting refereeing development at SARU, the national panel has been reduced from 12 to 10 referees and the provincial panel from 20 to 15 referees for next season. It seems that SARU wants to have referees officiating more often next season than in 2007.

By all accounts the only high profile casualty seems to be Linston Maneuls (Boland), rememberd for his famous (or infamous) TMO call when he failed award a legitimate try to Akona Ndungane for the Bulls in the Super 14 in 2006. He has failed it seems to regain his credibility and has been left off both panels.

•Michael Katzenellenbogen is a former Test referee and lives in Pietermaritzburg. Your views to

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