SANZAR has stupidly threatened the integrity of the qualifying finals this weekend between the Crusaders and Bulls and the Reds and Sharks by appointing two South African referees to officiate in matches involving two South African sides.
Spiro Zavos, The Roar
This stupidity runs against all the history and protocols of most major international sports where neutral referees are required for the big finals.
It is unthinkable, for instance, that a New Zealand referee, say, would have been appointed to referee the final of the 2011 RWC tournament when New Zealand played France.
Heineken Cup finals, too, are refereed by neutral referees. This system of neutral referees is long-standing (aside from Super Rugby) and is fair and is seen to be fair.
On Monday, though, SANZAR’s game manager, Lyndon Bray (an excellent referee in his day) announced that the South African, Jaco Peyper, will be the referee for the Crusaders–Bulls match, with assistants New Zealanders Keith Brown, Glen Jackson and TMO Garratt Williamson: and that South African Jonathan Kaplan will be the referee for the Reds–Sharks match, with the South African Craig Joubert an assistant and the Australians James Leckie (assistant) and Matt Goddard as TMO.
The justification for these appointments, according to Bray, is that the two referees fulfilled three key criteria – overall performance, accuracy of the big calls and the ‘right fit for the game.’
Pardon my french but this is codswallop.
To begin with the last criterion first: Kaplan is well past his prime as a referee. How he can be regarded as the ‘right fit’ for a match between two sides that like to run the ball and play at a high pace is beyond my understanding.
Peyper being a ‘right fit’ for the Crusaders–Bulls match is even more objectionable. Peyper refereed the Bulls–Crusaders match at Pretoria earlier in the year. This match is infamous for the fact that the Crusaders were leading comfortably around the half-way mark when the Bulls forwards Flip van der Merwe and then Chiliboy Ralepelle claimed they were eye-gouged.
No evidence of the eye-gouging was produced, either to Peyper on the field and to the citing commissioner, who confirmed there was no case for the Crusaders to answer as the Bulls had not offered any evidence to support the on-field claims of Bulls players.
It is history now that on the back of eight successful penalties out of 10 shots at goal, Morne Steyne kicked the Bulls to a 32-30 victory.
Crusaders were unhappy with Peyper’s refereeing performance and demanded an apology from the Bulls for their offensive claims
We need some history to understand the implications behind the ditching of the neutral referee protocol.
In 2007 the South African officials were in control of the SANZAR refereeing appointments. They listed 10 front line referees, six of them South African. They also said that the practice of neutral referees would be dropped for pool round matches. They implied that for the finals the neutral referees system would be used.
In fact, local referees were used for some of the finals with Jonathan Kaplan refereeing the Bulls versus Chiefs final at Pretoria.
As someone has pointed out, how would the Bulls react if Bryce Lawrence had been appointed to referee the Crusaders versus Bulls qualifying finals match?
Now the referees appointments are controlled by the New Zealander Lyndon Bray out of Auckland. Unfortunately, he has continued with the practice of ignoring the well-established and long-standing practice of having neutral referees for the finals matches.
I have consistently argued that this is unfair to the referees themselves. They should never be exposed to unfair accusations from parochial and biased supporters. This, in turn, disturbs the notion that justice must not only be done but should be seen to be done.
This is an unacceptable stuff up on the part of SANZAR.