New Zealand rugby referee Bryce Lawrence on Wednesday said he won’t officiate in South Africa if he fears for his safety after his performance at last month’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final between the Springboks and Australia.
Lawrence’s control of the October 9 quarter-final, won 11-9 by Australia to end South Africa’ reign as world champion, was strongly criticised by Springboks players, coaching staff and fans.
Retiring Springboks captain John Smit said “the one positive (of retirement) is that I won’t ever have to be reffed by him again” and a South African fan began a Facebook campaign entitled “Petition To Stop Bryce Lawrence Ever Reffing A Rugby Game Again.”
“I’m not totally concerned,” Lawrence told Radio Sport. “I know a lot of other people like the New Zealand Rugby Union and SANZAR do have some serious concerns.
“In all honesty I’m not going to go over there if there’s any personal threat or I have concerns about my safety because in the end it’s a job, I know that, and also it’s just a sport so I’m not going to put myself at risk.”
Lawrence said he had thought about his performance in the quarter-final every day since the match and accepts he made errors.
“My quarter-final performance created a lot of negative reaction in South Africa, pretty hostile, very personal, very harsh,” he said. “Also, on the flipside of that, I got a lot of really strong positive support from rugby people in New Zealand and around the world who probably know me a little bit more than the people in South Africa and were feeling for me during that time.
“… I was disappointed with some aspects in my own performance that day after refereeing four really pretty strong games in pool play. I’m not blaming anyone for the quarterfinal refereeing display apart from myself. I didn’t referee as well as I could.”
Lawrence said he recognised he would be punished for his performance.
“Look there has been some pretty clear consequences from my quarter-final display,” he said. “I’m not going to be refereeing Six Nations next year.
“They can say that means I’m rested but in reality I accept that one of the consequences of my performance is that I’m not going to be doing Six Nations.”