Joubert pressure to backfire?

Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
Craig Joubert to ref the Stormers in Hamilton on Friday morning … That in itself will be worth a dreadful two hour visit to the “dentist” for “Root canal” treatment!

Joubert is a fantastic referee - period. And as much as all referees claim zero bias, statistics gathered by SARU’s mobi-unit, a unit that spends an extraordinary amount of time an analysing referees given the influence they have on the modern game, show that 50/50 calls do tend to go the way of the home side.

Now we have a South African referee blowing a match between a Kiwi and SA side, in New Zealand! I cannot remember when that last happened, and it is certainly the only appointment of that nature in the next three rounds of Super Rugby.

I am all for the best referees refereeing the biggest games, no matter the nationality, and would love to see Joubert reffing the Boks, and while precedent has been set for non-neutral refs blowing home games, this is a biggie.

"I am definitely going to speak to Craig about it and I can tell you that I am going to be hard on his case throughout the game," said Stormers skipper Jean de Villiers earlier in the week.

“It” being the much talked about illegal holding of players at the breakdown. Would De Villiers have been so bold were an Aussie or Kiwi to have been appointed to blow the game?

Probably. Would he be confident of actually getting the ref’s ear? Less so, I would suggest.

Holding onto opposition players at the breakdown, blocking player’s running lines when receiving kick-ins and taking high balls, and generally making use of sneaky illegal tactics not well policed by refs to date has been standard operating practice for the Kiwis since William Webb Ellis picked up that soccer ball. With Richie McCaw having written the book on it …

And who is the greatest player that ever lived? Sure there will be debate, but one player who nobody would begrudge that title would be McCaw. Do cricketers walk? More debate, but again no real issue with the argument that you play the umpire in front of you.

Professional sportsmen push the envelope of legality. It’s the smart thing to do …

And do we now expect Craig Joubert to reverse this trend in Hamilton? This while deciding whether or not to blow for skew feeds to the scrum, trying to decide who collapsed the scrum, and looking for off-sides and hands in at the breakdown?

Of course we do, like we expect every ref to have a perfect game every time they take to the field. Realistic expectation? Hell, no!

This is a proper pressure game for Joubert. Not only will the Waikato Stadium eyes and voices be on him, but also the TV viewers from Hamilton and Cape Town, along with the SANZAR and probably IRB eyes too.

Is it really a good idea for De Villiers to be in Joubert’s ear all day? Could the pressure and fact that the game is in Hamilton actually backfire for the Stormers and their centurion captain?

A parting thought then … While the two-ref system being trialled in the Varsity Cup has seen the scrum a little over-policed, it does not seem to have detracted from the flow of the game, and seems to have seen the breakdown better policed.

How long before this is implemented upwards, thus relieving the likes of Joubert of some of the pressure he will be feeling on Friday morning?

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

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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