Sharks wary of Dickinson

2010-05-06 00:00

WHILE the Stormers are happy that Australian referee Stuart Dickinson is handling Saturday night’s Super 14 game at King’s Park, the Sharks are understandably wary.

The Sharks have had their problems with Dickinson in the past and they have been badly bitten by Australian referees this season.

But the Stormers reckon they have found their way into Dickinson’s heart and are now reaping the benefits.

Indeed, the Stormers have been as good at playing the referee as they have in downing most of their opponents, and they have not received one yellow card in 11 games.

Sharks head coach John Plumtree said this week that his players will have to concentrate on working with Dickinson on Saturday.

“We are going to have to be well-disciplined with him, especially at the breakdown.

“He hurt the Crusaders last week [at the breakdown] and our discipline needs to be very good. We have to make sure that we listen to him,” said Plumtree.

He added that the scrummaging will be a key area on Saturday night.

“We will have to be lily-white in the tight scrums.”

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee this week happily conceded that he and his players had gone out of their way to stay in Dickinson’s good books.

The Australian referee was roundly criticised by Stormers supporters after he penalised their team heavily in Perth a month ago and their team went down unexpectedly to the Western Force.

But Coetzee played the moment like a diplomat and said there were good reasons why Dickinson had hammered his team on the day.

Coetzee said that it was up to his players to adjust at the breakdown to keep the Australian referee satisfied.

And his approach has paid off, with the Stormers beating first the Auckland Blues and then the Crusaders with Dickinson in charge.

So dramatic has been the reversal that after the Crusaders were heavily penalised in their 42-14 hammering at Newlands last Friday, there were grumblings in New Zealand that Dickinson was favouring the Stormers.

Coetzee told News24 in Cape Town that the Stormers had brought in analysts to research the Super 14 referees, their trends, habits and how they apply the law.

They found that Dickinson, who is particularly hard on the defending team at the breakdown, awards the most penalties of any referee in the competition.

“We have a group of people studying the referee. It’s an arduous process and includes things like how the referee positions himself, how many penalties he awards per game and what those penalties are for. You know then what a referee focuses on. It helps to have a good study of the referee.

“We have been disciplined and we’ve had to adapt to the way he calls the game.”

The Stormers coach added that he had been impressed by the way Dickinson stood up and made “big calls”, citing the yellow-carding of Crusaders’ loose forward Kieran Read last Friday as an example.

Coetzee said that Stormers captain Schalk Burger is a pivotal figure because of the way he manages referees on the field.

“The communication between a captain and referee is very important. George Gregan, Sean Fitzpatrick and John Smit all had or have good relationships with referees,” said the coach.

“Schalk is handling it very well. He is an intense person and has showed very good leadership this year. He’s leading the team by example,” said Coetzee.

By Saturday night, Dickinson would have been in charge of one third (four games) of the Stormers’ dozen matches this year, and they are confident that the relationship they have developed with the Australian will provide them with a useful advantage in the game.

The match kicks off at 7.10 pm on Saturday.

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