Easy on the Jannie bashing

Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
The Jannie du Plessis’ “Moenie vir my kom lecture nie” clip will no doubt go down in rugby folklore - much to the embarrassment of the Bok tighthead prop - who is rightly contrite and apologetic about the incident.

VIDEO: Jannie du Plessis back-chats the referee

Fans hit out at Jannie du Plessis' referee blast

It certainly had me, and plenty others, based on comments seen on Twitter and on this very site, scrambling for the rewind button on the PVR remote, even if just to make sure it had really happened!

I guffawed so hard, the beer came out through my nostrils!

So I found it pretty intriguing to see that a story about Du Plessis’ post match apology call to referee Lourens van der Merwe had made it into the “Most commented” list here on Sport24, and then found the vitriol slung the way of the Bok stalwart via comments asked for by the editor fairly surprising.

"As a shark supporter I feel ashamed to say this man is a shark, he is a useless player and it seems like a fair amount of arrogance..." - Rugga Shark

"Happens when you think you are bigger than the game..." - Jacques le Roux

"Jannie poeplessis deserves a year ban minimum." - Thomas Tardiskus

Hells Bells... You would think he had eye-gouged the ball boy!

Sure, I am looking at the incident as a former tighthead prop who has suffered at the hands of a few referees, and a current coach who gets to see these huge men close to tears at the half-time chat given the frustration at how the ref on the day is interpreting the scrum engage, but let’s throw in a little perspective...

Firstly, this chat took place during a long pause in play for an injury and it is fairly common place for players and referees to discuss elements of the game.

Were the ref’s mic to have been muted while the commentary team analysed the game, we would not even have known that the chat had taken place.

Secondly, it was about an incredibly technical part of the game that often gets overlooked by referees given how difficult it is to comply with the law, which states that both props have to bind on the side of the opposition prop’s jersey - and NOT on the arm, which is what Du Plessis was doing, and what Van der Merwe was taking issue with.

These are huge men, with massive arms, dressed in body hugging canvas – hence the Varsity Cup trialling these grip pads on the prop jerseys. If both props go for the short bind with elbows up, it is actually sometimes impossible for the tighthead to reach past the arm of the opposition loosehead, whose arm goes inside the tighthead’s. Hence most refs letting this one slide.

Thirdly, Du Plessis probably has been told by all of Paddy O’Brien, Lyndon Bray, Balie Swart, Pieter de Villiers, and all other IRB “experts” called in to chat to the players, that his technique is fine.

Yes, Du Plessis was technically incorrect by binding on the arm and not the body, and yes, he chose a tone and set of words that was disrespectful to the referee, but try and see it through the eyes of a frustrated player.

Van der Merwe does not come away from the incident unscathed either...

"With that incident Van der Merwe showed every rugby lover he is a biased spineless ref, and a big embarrassment to SA rugby" said someone called “JP” in the same set of comments.

Yet, can you imagine the “schoolmaster” comments had Van der Merwe given Du Plessis a yellow card for disrespectful behaviour instead of having the chat?

We like it when our referees have a good rapport with the players as it mostly leads to mutual respect and a better flowing game.

Glen Jackson, Nigel Owens and Craig Joubert seem to be getting that right, and Van der Merwe seems to be heading in that direction.

Sure, he could perhaps have been tougher on Du Plessis, but you also want a ref who is willing to listen to the players. Of much higher concern at the moment are the TMOs and their incredibly poor decisions!

Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt

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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