Incompetence a criteria for referees?

Garrin Lambley (File)
Garrin Lambley (File)

Cape Town - Yet another shocking performance from a high-profile referee has led Garrin Lambley to believe that incompetence is actually a desired requirement by World Rugby.

Another weekend, another refereeing debacle.

READ: 5 talking points from Super Rugby Week 6

This time around the villain was South Africa's own Marius van der Westhuizen, who along with his assistant referees Egon Seconds and Rasta Rasivhenge and TMO Christie du Preez, managed to inexplicably miss a textbook red card offence in Saturday's Stormers v Reds clash at Newlands.

As early as the ninth minute, the Reds' Tongan-born 21-year-old prop Taniela Tupou hit Stormers wing Craig Barry late - and with the shoulder - in a no-arms tackle that warranted a straight red card (see below).

Unbelievably, Van der Westhuizen was heard over the referee's microphone to say "play had moved on too far to back-pedal".

Which in itself is utter garbage as it's never too late to review an incident of foul play.

Heck, we've seen tries awarded and conversions about to be taken, only for a referee to consult his TMO over a possible knock-on, let alone near paralysis!

Stormers coach Robbie Fleck was rightly angered by what he described as “cheap shots” from the Reds that went unpunished by the officials.

What saved Van der Westhuizen's bacon to a degree was that the Stormers managed to hang on desperately in the closing stages for a narrow 25-19 victory, something that surely would've been a lot less stressful had the visitors been reduced to 14 men for the last 71 minutes.

Predictably post-match Tupou was cited by the citing commissioner who deemed the incident had met the red card threshold for foul play.

We await the length of Tupou's ban. Just a crying shame Van der Westhuizen will escape sanction and no doubt be in action next weekend...

Although that's not something retired former Springbok back Dawie Snyman would like to see, with the ex-WP and Maties great calling for a year-long ban for the official.

SuperSport analysts Nick Mallett and Naas Botha were also forthright in their opinions of the incident.

"I do not know how this foul went unpunished. It was impossible for all four (referee, two assistant referees and the television match official) to miss it," Mallett said.

"It was a clear-cut red. There was no argument. It was a straight-forward decision. Red card," Botha believed.

Sadly for the state of rugby, Van der Westhuizen isn't even the worst referee on display in this year's Super Rugby tournament, with that "honour" going to seemingly permanently out of breath Japanese whistle blower, Shuhei Kubo.

In a similar incident to the Van der Westhuizen one, a fortnight ago, Kubo and his TMO for the Chiefs v Bulls match in Hamilton deemed that a swinging and late stiff-arm "tackle" from Bulls prop Conraad van Vuuren that almost decapitated Chiefs star back Damian McKenzie only warranted a yellow card.

Thankfully sanity - and justice - prevailed and the citing commissioner, looking at exactly the same images, deemed it a red card offence and banned the front-ranker for three matches.

Despite his woeful handling of that match, there was no suggestion of a ban for Kubo and he was back in charge of last Friday's clash between the Rebels and Sharks - a match the Durbanites in hindsight would've loved not having been played at all as they went down 46-14.

Why is it that officials appear virtually untouchable, while the players, the only people on the field of play spectators actually pay to watch live or on TV, have their futures decided by these all-too-often, out-of-their-depth whistle-blowers?

How many times have we been infuriated by commentators saying players need to "adapt to the ref's interpretation of the rules"?

What utter nonsense!

The law is the law. There should never be any interpretation required. If the ref on the day isn't blowing the offside or tackle-release law - or any law for that matter - he needs to be fined and demoted for the season and replaced by someone with knowledge of the rule book.

We heard Eddie Jones saying after England's most recent Six Nations defeat to Ireland - their third in the tournament - that some players would never play for England again.

That's how fickle the game is these days for players. Three defeats in a team game and you're goneski. Hero today, a has-been tomorrow.

For referees?

Rubbish today, but can you take charge of a match next Saturday?

Recently we heard SANZAAR referees boss Lyndon Bray admonish Highlanders fullback Ben Smith for approaching the referee and asking him to refer a possible knock-on prior to a try he'd just awarded, to the TMO, while the Crusaders, their opponents on the day, were lining up the conversion.

What would Bray rather have Smith done?

Wait until the conversion was taken? Have you in all your years watching rugby ever seen a referee rule out a try after a conversion was taken? Have you ever seen a match replayed after a refereeing howler cost a team a match or title?

Think Craig Joubert robbing the Crusaders of the 2014 Super Rugby title, when in the last movement of the match he incorrectly penalised Richie McCaw and handed a lifeline to the Waratahs? Joubert may have later apologised, but how warm and fuzzy did that make the Crusaders feel?

Think Wayne Barnes - and his assistants - missing the blatant French forward pass in the quarter-finals of the 2007 Rugby World Cup that eliminated the All Blacks from title contention.

Failure by the governing body to immediately address the dire situation and we'll no doubt see repeats of last week's incident where referee Vlad Iordachescu had to be escorted from the field by security after Spanish players angrily confronted him following their 2019 Rugby World Cup qualifying defeat to Belgium that saw Romania qualify for the tournament.

Over to you, World Rugby.

Garrin Lambley is a very frustrated rugby fan and Editor of Sport24 for his sins...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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