SARU 'acted strong' over Poite

Jurie Roux (Gallo)
Jurie Roux (Gallo)
Cape Town – The South African Rugby Union has spiritedly knocked back suggestions that it did not take a powerful enough stance following the “Bismarck du Plessis affair” in the Castle Rugby Championship Test between New Zealand and South Africa in Auckland.

The Springbok hooker has subsequently had his controversial red card, issued by French referee Romain Poite at Eden Park on Saturday, erased by a SANZAR judicial officer, and he is clear to represent the country against the Wallabies if chosen at Newlands on Saturday week.

But some domestic critics and fans have raged that it is “too little too late” as the dismissal of Du Plessis badly dented the Boks’ prospects of winning at their long-time bogey venue; the All Blacks eventually won 29-15.

There have been numerous accusations that SARU is “soft” on such perceived injustices, and one rugby writer even suggested the Boks should have left the field in protest.

SARU CEO Jurie Roux, however, has pooh-poohed the notion that the domestic governing body did not act swiftly or decisively enough.

In a wide-ranging interview this week with Sport24 – other aspects of it will appear over the course of the next few days -- Roux said: “Yes, we’re very emotional too ... we were as angry as so many others on Saturday when it (Du Plessis’ two yellow cards) happened.

“But from a SA Rugby point of view we have to operate within structures. As with any other business, there’s no point us getting all emotional in the media and trying to castrate somebody!

“You have to follow procedures: on Saturday evening we were already writing to the IRB and SANZAR. We were in email correspondence throughout Sunday and got them to acknowledge there was a mistake and it shouldn’t have happened.

“The result of that is Bissie got off scot-free on both counts which was a good result for us. The recourse for us is through that method -- speaking to SANZAR, speaking to IRB, the referees’ selectors.

“It is up to them to ensure either the referee in question gets rehabilitated or comes off the present panel. We can’t alter what happened on the field.

“Of course we’re emotional: at times in those first 10, 15 minutes I myself thought ‘here we go, this is our day’, and then a wrong decision by the referee did spoil our day. The spectators were deprived of a proper contest, but we’ve certainly taken the measures we could ... and we’ve seen a response.”

Roux said it would be unfair to lambast the appointment of Poite’s compatriot Jerome Garces for the looming Test against Australia.

“We’ve got a French referee at Newlands, but the referees also have processes to follow and just because he’s French like (Poite) we can’t simply assume he’ll be the same as the previous one. We’ve got to abide by (the appointment).

“I do need to say this, too: We can’t play the game without referees. We’ve got a lack of good-quality referees in the world; South Africa produces the best by far and we’re never going to see them for our internationals.

“But if everybody keeps (sniping) at referees, we won’t have them in a couple of years’ time. We must be vigilant when things are done wrongly, but also need to be supportive to get them to a level where they are genuinely of international standard and can compete.

“We have to afford the IRB the opportunity to really develop that area – it’s only been an area they’ve really concentrated on for the past four or five years and hopefully they’ll get some results.

“But people have got to learn somewhere, and if the top four or five referees in the world are all South African, it’s unfortunately a reality that we will always get numbers six, seven and eight for our own Tests.”

Roux concurred that there was a fine line between making dissatisfaction with officialdom known, and the danger of becoming perceived worldwide as serial moaners.

“That is (true), though the thing I don’t always agree with is the whole ‘cowboys don’t cry’ notion after a match. I think that can be counter-productive as well.

“You should, indeed, lodge your complaints, lodge your reports, because if you don’t do it, you are actually just acknowledging you’re happy with what (the referees) are doing out on the pitch. That’s not acceptable to us either.

“So no, we don’t cry in the media – that won’t make any difference. We go through procedure. We’d want people to do exactly the same if they felt we’d done something wrong, too. We operate within the structure – if you go outside it, you’ll get no results.

“We wrote very strong letters to the IRB and SANZAR over what we thought of Saturday, believe me. Before the end of the game my first email had already gone.

“We actually got acknowledgement from New Zealand through their CEO (Steve Tew), saying that both our coach (Heyneke Meyer) and captain (Jean de Villiers) were a credit to our side in not trying to emotionally heighten this unfortunate situation at present.

“Bear in mind that there are very strict rules governing what they say, so that may also have played a role, but the reality is we have a very strong team at the moment, a good captain and coach, and they are trying a different ethos ... taking it on the chin when we lose and then just bouncing back. And we are making headway as a Test side.”

*More aspects of the interview with Jurie Roux will appear on shortly

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