Super Rugby

SA referee bias: Spotlight falls on Seconds, Rasivhenge

Rasta Rasivhenge (Gallo Images)
Rasta Rasivhenge (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - South African Super Rugby officials are back in the spotlight - and for all the wrong reasons.

There was an outcry when the officials for the upcoming Rugby World Cup in Japan were announced earlier this month, with only two South Africans - Jaco Peyper (as a referee) and Marius Jonker (as a TMO) - making the cut.

However, recent performances suggest the selection panel may not have been so far off the mark with their rating of SA officials.

According to the RugbyPass website, the Highlanders and Crusaders are the latest visiting teams to have been left bewildered after both teams were frustrated with calls made by a local officials this past weekend.

It follows frustrations from the Waratahs who were left puzzled with the performance of referee Egon Seconds (see below) in their encounter against the Lions the weekend prior.

At Newlands on Saturday, Jonker, in his role as TMO, controversially denied the Crusaders a try in the 75th minute - which would have in all likelihood sunk the Stormers.

READ: Forward pass call overshadows Stormers-Crusaders draw

Earlier in the day, Rasta Rasivhenge pinged the Highlanders 12 times to the Lions’ three in Johannesburg.

The penalty count against the Highlanders was similar to last week’s Bulls versus Crusaders match - also under Rasivhenge’s watch - which ended with a 12-4 advantage to the home side in Pretoria.

The objectivity of South African referees when reffing South African teams at home against non-South African opponents has been called into questions by fans and media alike.

This season international teams have lost the penalty count 96-47 when playing in South Africa against the Bulls, Lions, Stormers and Sharks - with a South African referee in charge.

When those same South African sides play at home with a non-South African referee against international sides, the count is much more even at 72-66.

When Seconds has refereed in those fixtures, the penalty count is a staggering 31-3 in favour of South African teams.

Rasivhenge has a penalty count of 23 against South African teams and 44 against international opposition in matches in South Africa.

An international away side has only won the penalty count once this season in South Africa with a South African referee in charge, when the Chiefs smashed the Bulls 56-20 under AJ Jacobs at Loftus Versfeld.

The Stormers have not been without refereeing controversy this season when the visiting Lions were undone by questionable penalties to keep the match going which resulted in a try in the 85th-minute to win the match for the home side in Round 2.

That match was refereed by former Stormers player, Seconds.

According to the RugbyPass website, when quizzed on the matter, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said: “A lot of the penalties are right, but they’re not consistent on both sides. If that’s a penalty today then it’s a penalty for the whole day not just part of the day. The Lions team in South Africa had been awarded 48 penalties in three games while the opposition sides had only been awarded six. That would mean there wasn’t a lot of consistency being applied.

“I don’t know any team that’s only given six penalties away in three games so I would say there’s not enough consistency in what they’re seeing. I’m not saying the penalties they are giving are not right, I’m saying they’re obviously missing a few.

“It’s interesting, sometimes some sides don’t want to engage, they’re scrummaging for penalties and it’s very tough for the referee to actually see who is not engaging and who is pushing over the mark.

“From the naked eye, it is easier to see that I’ve pushed over the mark rather than you not engaging so we’ve got to help them in that area. We’ve had a chat to them about looking at the No 8 and if he is not pushing his team in then they’re not engaging. Most referees have got to use their ARs (assistant referees) to have a look at the whole picture rather than just the front picture.”

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