RW chats to Andre Watson 1

March 17, 2010
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Watson is the straight talking straight shooting fellow ERT in charge of referees in SA… DavidS chats to him. And discovers some startling facts about being a ref…. and statistics about Super 14 2010!

Refs travel even more than players do… and it gets to them just as much as it gets to players… more so… one Saturday Craig Joubert could be blowing a match at jade Stadium and the next he’s in Cardiff for Wales and France… it is not an easy job… but as Watson tells us… at this level of refereeing… it is a case of if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen…

To add to their difficult profession, you have fans who question your every move and referees who casually announce that you “had a forgettable game”… without even saying why or where you went wrong… and it is no help when a fan tackles you and a newspaper running a poll about it on Monday gets a 90% approval rating for the treatment of the ref… we’re talking about Pieter Van Zyl and Dave McHolm of course.

And… only in South Africa though… you get death threats. Watson tells RW that someone told his family they would kill his wife and rape his daughters once… Willie Roos, a guy SA Referees had invested a lot of time and training in, eventually cracked and walked away from the job… and that is at provincial and international level… at school and club level referees lives are regularly in danger…

In fact the traditional feeders of the police, teachers and army as referees has dried up… these days referees organizations are actively trying to recruit people to be referees in South Africa. At peak of season there needs to be 8000 refs a weekend… there are about 2000 registered… and it is a lonely path to the top… and a lonely spot at the top. If you want to become a ref… hey you can contact the SA Referees Association and get started… Watson relates a story of one of our famous Boks taking his boy to Bulletjie rugby and then deciding that maybe rugby was a bad idea after he saw the way parents carried on next to the field… to the point where even him, an ex lock, felt intimidated.

Watson does not have much time for the media… he thinks they report in wide terms without really understanding the game or the pressures on a referee. A single mistake by a referee can have repercussions that last years and years… Clive Norling is forever remembered for his 10 minutes of injury time in 1981… but who recalls the mistakes Johnny Wilkinson made in the 2003 World Cup final… Watson does.

English fans gave him loads of flack for handling the game… yet their evergreen hero kicked directly into touch, knocked on, missed tackles and missed two drop goals. As Watson says… at the end of the day if your team is good enough it should win… but people are suspicious of refs and their intentions.

DavidS quotes his favourite phrase. As a lawyer you have a case that takes two years to get to court. You can fix mistakes before you get there but the day court starts two years of work culminates… and you get one bite at the cherry… no mistakes allowed… should the same not apply to refs for 80 minutes a week? Watson agrees about the law… but says professional refereeing is different. He is unapologetic. Refs make mistakes. They are people. Surrounded by 30 000 fans and thirty desperate to win burly monsters in a pressure cooker… mistakes happen… if refs are not allowed mistakes… then players should be fired for making mistakes too. If refs got fired for every error they made there would be no referees. Refs get monitored for performance, but basically mistakes will happen and will keep happening forever, unless you have robot refs with robot players.

Then again… you get flown to Christchurch in a double flight, arrive two days before the game and get put up in some lonely log cabin hotel, catch up with jet lag sleep, do not leave your hotel and then on Saturday evening in Australia vs New Zealand – who the heck has time to sit and make some nefarious plan to screw over one of the teams… and on Sunday you’re on your way to London or Paris to blow a Six nations match… the idea that referees intentionally screw teams over to cheat is ridiculous.

Teams lose… and in the professional era there is a lot of pressure on highly paid players, super salaried coaches and the team management. When they lose the media, fans and administrators want reasons… they want excuses… so guess what… players refuse to take the blame… just followed the gameplan… coach says there was nothing wrong with the game plan… guess who gets the blame… the ref of course…

DavidS tells Watson that his grandfather played rugby at provincial level and had a saying… in South Africa there are three results to a rugby match… we won, it was a draw and the ref was a d**s. He agrees.

How do we look after refs? Well there are systems in place. Watson looks to keep his refs rested. Some like Mark Lawrence make it clear that their family always come first and he is respected for that. Referees are constantly marked in a match assessment. The assessment is run on television created software especially for referees. It allows different angles and speeds of view. It records specific incidents like all the scrums and tackles etc. The assessor writes his report. If errors occur the minute and incident are described in detail… the ref get a chance to respond. And then the matter is referred to the coaches of the teams so they can see how the decisions came about. In South Africa the professional refs are performance assessed after each match. They get a report of their performance. If there is a quality issue the ref is told to sort it out. Our professional refs all have a mentor… a retired ref trainer who is allocated to assist the professional with career development, mentorship and of course to correct any errors and provide training and advice. Watson is one of the mentors.

An hour’s interview is a bit difficult to fit into one article… and it would be unfair to try and summarize what we discussed in one short article… in my next piece we discuss specific areas of the game next and reveal some startling statistics about this season’s Super 14…

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38 Comments

  1. avatar DavidS says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Well I must say this interview was an eye opener for me.

    Thanks for the time and effort at explaining these things to a lowly reporter / fan Andre…

  2. avatar The Brand says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 10:12 am

    THANKS – Andre Watson :respek: :respek: :respek:

    Does this mean we are never to say ******* anymore :oops: :twisted:

    Thanks DawidS :applause:

  3. avatar The Brand says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 10:16 am

    8O 8O 8O

    “The assessment is run on television created software especially for referees. It allows different angles and speeds of view. It records specific incidents like all the scrums and tackles etc. The assessor writes his report. If errors occur the minute and incident are described in detail… the ref get a chance to respond. And then the matter is referred to the coaches of the teams so they can see how the decisions came about. In South Africa the professional refs are performance assessed after each match. They get a report of their performance”

    Why, o why, have we (or is it indeed – I ) never heard of this before in this well explained way ?????????????????

    If coaches receive the reports – WHY – have they themselves never commented or changed the comments on games ???????????????

  4. avatar The Brand says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 10:19 am

    At RW most know how strong I feel and believe in – Mind Coaching for players.

    Last year Morne said Referees need it as Importantly.

    I know that – reading DavidS article just confirmed this for me again.

    I wonder what the SA Referees Association is currently doing in this regard ???

  5. avatar DavidS says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Reply to The Brand @ 10:12 am:

    Andre is reading this and he’s from Brakpan so ja you can try and see what happens…

    Just don’t call me to take you to hospital…

    And no

    I have newfound respect for referees…

  6. avatar DavidS says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Reply to The Brand @ 10:16 am:

    Because saying

    “Oh effit the ref was right after all” could be career ending if you went on satyurday and claimed the ref screwed your team out of a win…

    Like Phil Waugh’s extensive praise of Paul Marks and whining about what happened in CT with the Stormers….

    BTW Andre told me that on analysis of the Stormers game there was just ONE incident where Waugh got blown up and felt he was done in… but on after game analysis it appears the ref was right to blow him up…

    All this has done is lower my estimation of Waugh….

    Now I really don’t like him…

  7. avatar DavidS says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 10:45 am

    ps.

    Just an RW thanks to Andre for correcting some of my errors after reading the article… I was making notes as we spoke so maybe was not all that accurate..

  8. avatar The Brand says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Reply to DavidS @ 10:28 am:

    Shit – if anybody needs it – it is the referees. (he he he – not so that they can referee better)

    Meaning THEY can THEMSELVES benefit

    and I do not mean just better refereeing – I mean the whole house.

    We never really stop and think about the stress these referees operat in, yet it must be huge.

    And to simply say – ja but it is their jobs – well sorry – don’t fly with me.

  9. avatar Ollie says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 10:58 am

    And you guys thought I was joking the other day when I said that there are 2 things you cannot pay meenough to do:
    - Live in Gauteng
    - become a ref

    :lol:

  10. avatar JT says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Well one thing I REALLY like about the new interpretation (I like to call it the CORRECT interpretation!) is that rucking is not needed if the ref applies the law.
    We (here and on other lists) have been calling for “bring back the slipper” (rucking) but this S14 the rucks have been clean!
    :job: :thumbup:

  11. avatar welshbok says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Yes, we have all known just that,

    “refs are Human”
    “players are also human”
    “coaches are human too”

    all above are however professional humans though.

    Refs certainly don’t ref for charity, it’s their profession, and they certainly get paid well for it, and as with all jobs, you have the down sides as well. Players get injuries, refs get lambasted, it’s part of the job.

    Professional = accountability

    Until recently, players and coaches got dropped, lambasted and crucified for bad decisions or mistakes, but refs were protected like royal game.

    That is unacceptable, and I’m glad to see that it is finally being addressed.

    I’ll never forget Paul Honis saying the words in an Ireland game

    “Now go and talk to your players”

    he never got roasted for that, and it was a professional error, the type for which players and coaches get dropped or even fired for.

    As jy kak aanjaag, face up, say sorry, and take it like a man, and all will respect you for it and move on.

    Try and cover it up or justify it, you will be crucified and never forgiven.

  12. avatar out wide says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Nice article David, but did Andre divulge how much these guys are paid? They are highly paid professionals so we mustn’t get too carried away about how hard the job is when they screw up. After all what is the difference between a ref flying business class and the business man next to him. Both have to deliver when they arrrive and both should be answerable if they screw up. By the way the Christchurch example doesn’t work with me as I have done the trip numerous times and it can be JNB/SYD 14 hrs, 4 hrs layover and 3 hrs SYD/CHC. Is that really so bad?

  13. avatar Boertjie says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Reply to DavidS @ 10:45 am:

    Just an RW thanks to Andre for correcting some of my errors after reading the article… I was making notes as we spoke so maybe was not all that accurate..
    ========
    So do you now also have new
    respect for the scribes who
    go to press conferences?
    :wink:
    Tape recorder is the answer.

  14. avatar JT says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 11:39 am

    @Andre Watson – One of my biggest concerns is where the game is going at scrum time. The “hit” has crawled its way into the game in the last 2 decades and IMO has caused all sorts of stability problems at the scrum and not to mention the injury problems for the front row players.
    Q: WHY do we keep persisting with the hit? If we do and the injury count rises we may lose the competative scrum alltogether and that will be a disaster for rugby purists.
    Solution: Take out the hit, bind like was done in the 70′s with the 2 packs coming together, binding and get settled before the ball is fed. Technique and power will come back into it and the teams will not drop the scrum because they LOST the HIT. They will still drop the scrum if put under pressure (but this will be easy to spot and penalize!) but the dropping on the hit is dangerous, boring and taking away the real competition at scrum time – the PUSH and HOOK!

    Thoughts would be great but best would be a whisper to Paddy O’Brien.

    Thanks for reading ;-)

  15. avatar Ollie says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Reply to Boertjie @ 11:36 am:

    I was going to make some smartass chirp about what his explanation of a what a dictaphone would be, but decided against it :twisted:

  16. avatar Boertjie says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Reply to Ollie @ 11:54 am:

    Hehehe.
    Good piece nevertheless.
    Kudus to Dawie.

  17. avatar JT says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    “the idea that referees intentionally screw teams over to cheat is ridiculous.”

    What about subconsciously? A lot of time referees demeanor points to favouring one side. For example Steve Walsh often comes over in such a way. Smiling and winking at one team and showing annoyance at another team. (I know that it is hard to like the Lions and Sharks but still :twisted: )
    Do referees consciously work on this or is it ignored. Referees will always have favourite players or teams and reverse – they are human afterall :mrgreen:

  18. avatar DavidS says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    I have a tape recorder but its battery was flat… a fact I discovered in the car when I got there…. aaarrrggghhhh!

    My note taking skills are not too bad … I only made one error

    JT

    This is just Part 1

    We also discussed issues like scrum sets, the tackle area, forwards passes, differences between NH and SH refereeing but that is for my next peice…

    I thought it was important for us to emphasize the difficulties refs face in performing their jobs…

    Dude call them professional

    But like he told me

    In SA being a professional does not mean you act normal when your family gets death threats…

    Not one at all…

    Pressure happens

    Most countries have professional armies thesee days.

    But heck… if you google “Seal Team 7″ you will find an entire squad of some of the most hardcore special forces soldiers in the world** make a basic error in tactical appreciation* and almost 40 soldiers die…

    Even the best make errors….

    * trusted local population in a hostile area and gave up high ground to hike through a valley… amateur mistakes to be honest but it proves that professionals at the highest level also make errors…

    ** not THEE best but as close as can be… the British SAS still rules that one IMO

  19. avatar JT says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Reply to DavidS @ 12:41 pm:

    Thanks for the effort!
    :job: :bowdown:
    Great job getting it from the “horses mouth”!
    Even as an ex-ref and now occasional ref in the Austrian league I still can’t imagine what these TOP referees must go through 8O

  20. avatar The Brand says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Reply to JT @ 11:39 am:

    Amen to that.

    How easy – to sort the mess !!!

  21. avatar Ollie says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Reply to The Brand @ 12:51 pm:

    You have mail

  22. avatar The Brand says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Reply to Ollie @ 12:54 pm:

    Replied – THANK YOU !!!

  23. avatar Morné says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Sorry I am so scarce guys, have been sick at home all week.

    Dawie, spectacular effort with this, I hope you got some more out of this interview wrt how we can continue this channel with Andre and his men in the future!!!

    Will be brilliant if we could.

  24. avatar fyndraai says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    The problem is that too many penalizable offences are missed in any given game.

    Scrumhalfs put the ball in skew, props drop the scrum, flankers unbind from and interferes with the opposing 9, kick-offs are taken over the line, pillars and lifters obstruct, locks jump before the ball is thrown in. The list goes on.

    Teams and players that do not deliberately infringe put themselves at a disadvantage.

    Fans and coaches only notice the omissions that affected them and find a convenient scapegoat in the ref.

    So far this season has shown the positive result of strictly enforcing some laws. Now go and enforce the rest. Add a 2nd or 3rd referee if that what is needed.

    Only once all the laws are enforced, to the letter, all the time will fans stop noticing (and blaming) the referee.

  25. avatar JT says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Reply to fyndraai @ 1:46 pm:

    agree 100% :thumbup:

  26. avatar The Brand says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    “So far this season has shown the positive result of strictly enforcing some laws. Now go and enforce the rest. Add a 2nd or 3rd referee if that what is needed.

    Only once all the laws are enforced, to the letter, all the time will fans stop noticing (and blaming) the referee.”

    AMEN :bowdown: :bowdown: :bowdown:

  27. avatar fyndraai says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    That is the case in American football. The referees miss almost nothing and discussions about mistakes by them are extremely rare.

    Nobody knows or care about who the referees are. Unlike in rugby they are neither famous or infamous. That is how it should be.

  28. avatar fyndraai says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Sorry Andre, but the ideal situation is that we do not know who you are and an interview with you is of no interest. :D

  29. avatar manvanstaal says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    :job:

  30. avatar Ollie says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Reply to fyndraai @ 1:46 pm:

    I agree with you in principle, but I don’t think that 100% of infringements will ever be seen and blown in a game of rugby. American football is a very stop start affair with mostly clean cut transgression recognition.

    Whereas rugby is “continuos” in comparison with many more laws available for transgression and, to make it worse, very difficult to spot transgressions. E.g. when is a slip in a scrum a real slip and not a deliberate collapse, it’s not always clear cut.

    But yes, a lot of missed transgressions will be seen with more refs.

  31. avatar Boertjie says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Reply to fyndraai @ 1:46 pm:

    With kick-offs from halfway
    at least 6-7 players are
    ALWAYS offside – watch.

    Props with the outside arm
    on the ground – and then the
    prop on the other side gets penalised.
    I see this regularly.

    I thought that’s two reasons
    why we have asst. refs?

  32. avatar UFO says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    super effort David… well done… to you… and Andre…

    I look forward to the rest…

    just one point… “Watson does not have much time for the media… he thinks they report in wide terms without really understanding the game or the pressures on a referee.”

    When approached by the media (in the past…it may be changing…) the refs and ref associations clam up and refuse to discuss anything… therefore they need to accept some blame for the media reporting in “wide terms”.

    This last incident with Paul Marks is great as we now all know they did indeed take it seriously and were SEEN to be taking it seriously and DID something about it… That was a great start…

    But Andre has said before that it is unfair to hang the ref out to dry… and he may be right… but… in this professional era refs hang out players to dry by carding them yellow or red, correctly or incorrectly and it has a direct bearing on the players in terms of earnings in match fees and an indirect bearing on the player’s career in terms of a record for foul play (deserved or not)

    not to be available to even discuss these issues and incidents not only does NOT protect the refs it adds to the levels of mistrust and misunderstanding…

    David… if you speak to Andre again… could you not ask him about putting into place a sysytem whereby the morning after each game (or later the same evening when things have calmed down) an hour or so is set aside during which the refs (all four) both captains and coaches can get together and go through the game together and discuss and explain any controversial incidents from both sides… the refs can explain their calls etc… the captains can explain their actions etc…

    afterwards a brief media release as to what issues were discussed and how they were resolved or will be tackled would go a long way to keeping the media and public informed… and that’s all the public wants is to be informed…

    also… such meetings would REALLY assist coaches and captains getting to understand each refs personal interptretations and would also assist refs to learn about the frustrations of the players and coaches…

    such a system would open up dialogue that would benefit everyone…

    a hour or two after each game would be well worth the investment…

  33. avatar Boertjie says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Reply to UFO @ 2:57 pm:

    Ja, but that will kill the
    SMS columns in the newspapers
    and lots of posts on blogs.
    :D

  34. avatar UFO says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Reply to Boertjie @ 3:18 pm:

    :lol:

    but everyone will be happier… and jumbo jets will have to look out for high-flying pigs… :?

  35. avatar The Brand says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Well said UFO
    Still I don’t want to ref ;-)

  36. avatar UFO says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Reply to The Brand @ 3:25 pm:

    me neither bud… me neither…

  37. avatar The Brand says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    UFO ha ha ha

  38. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    March 18th, 2010 at 2:38 am

    Nice one ERT!

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