Time now to move on

September 18, 2013
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aaaaaaaaaaaIn the wake of the raucous chorus of indignation it may be a good idea to try to clear up some wild misconceptions in the hope that they could calm some of the storm.

By: Paul Dobson

There is a massive outcry in South Africa over one refereeing error – an error which has had public acknowledgement from the IRB and Romain Poite himself.

It was a mistake, a miserable mistake but to go from there to outrage and all sorts of conspiracy theories does nobody any good and is certainly not good for the game of rugby football.

It seems that some are already condemning Jérôme Garcès, who is to referee the match between South Africa and Australia at the end of the month just because he is also a Frenchman.

The topic we really want to talk about is the accountability of referees but first we do just something on Poite.

Romain Poite, voted the top referee in France in the last two years, turned 38 on the day of that fateful match between New Zealand and South Africa. He is one of four full-time referees in France – along with Jérôme Garcès, Mathieu Raynal and Eric Gauzère. He has refereed at the last two World Cups – in 2007 and 2011.

It is interesting that the South African management at the 2011 World Cup had decided that, if they reached the Final, they would ask for Poite to be appointed to the match.

He has refereed Six Nations matches. This year he refereed the third Test between Australia and the B&I Lions, the deciding Test of the series, a huge occasion. Earlier this year he refereed the match between South Africa and Scotland.

Clearly the IRB viewed him as a tried and tested referee with competence and big match temperament, and so they in good faith appointed him to the match between New Zealand and South Africa.

Nowhere in all of that was there lurking the villain some people think he is. The man is probably now suffering from unhappy selfreproach for his evident error.

There have been cries for the IRB to take disciplinary steps against him. Rugby does not work that way. A disciplinary hearing is for foul play on the field or misconduct off the field. Poite made a mistake. Poite was not guilty of assault or misconduct off the field. He would not be subject to a disciplinary inquiry, any more than players would be for making mistakes on the field. Bryan Habana will not be subject to a disciplinary hearing for that kick that led to a try, nor will Jannie du Plessis for missing tackles and conceding penalties nor will Zane Kirchner for mistakes he made, nor will…………………

But Steve Walsh, during his career, was called to account for misconduct when not refereeing or guilty of foul play. He was sanctioned for his conduct. That hearing and sanctioning was made public – as happens with a player.

Then there is the commonly expressed accusation that referees are not held accountable.

Top referees are subject to intense scrutiny. They have people reviewing their performance in every match. The assessors, specifically trained for the job, discuss the match with referees. The assessor/performance reviewer sends his report to the IRB’s manager of referees with a copy to the IRB. The reports are detailed and thorough. The referee gives a self-appraisal to his management. The managements of the teams involved also send in reports to the IRB’s referee manager with copies to the IRB itself. The referee is required to react to the assessor’s report and to the reports of the two teams.

All this scrutiny – far greater than a player endures – forms the basis of the referee’s appointments and indeed of where he is graded.

The suggestion that no action is taken against referees is not true. Like players, referees are withdrawn from panels (squads) and not appointed, as players are not picked. When a player is dropped or not picked it is extremely rare that his coach announces it or gives detailed reasons. But people interested in the team will know that the player has been dropped and suspect something like loss of form.

The same is true of referees. When a referee is dropped from a panel or not appointed to a match there is usually no announcement. But people who are interested in referees will know that something has happened – for example if his name is no longer on a panel or he is not appointed or appointed to less important matches.

If you were interested in refereeing over the last few years, you would probably work out that referees have been subject to action against them for their form.

These could well include Wayne Barnes (England), Christophe Berdos (France), Lyndon Bray (New Zealand), Tappe Henning (South Africa), Marius Jonker (South Africa), Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand), Mark Lawrence (South Africa), Alan Lewis (Ireland), Dave Pearson (England), Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Tony Spreadbury (England) and Steve Walsh (Australia).

These actions are not always permanent, as with players. Regain form and you are back – as Wayne Barnes, Tappe Henning, Mark Lawrence, Chris Pollock, Tony Spreadbury and Steve Walsh did.

Those are some top referees we have spoken of. In each country there are also assessments made that lead to grading and a appointments. If one looks at refereeing consistently in national or local societies, you would be aware of similar actions taking place throughout the season.

Referees are in fact accountable. They are a part of the game and treated as a part of the game.

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17 Comments

  1. avatar Jacques Nortier says:
    September 18th, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    The problem for referees is that they are one person and supporters from both sides look at their performances and usually we only look at his bad decisions on the field.

    They are held accountable by every blow on the whistle by supporters. This makes them an easy target for cry-wolves when this do go wrong.

    That match fixing can easy be done by the referee on an important match can be possible, I believe it is mad to think that.

    But then again that is just me, move one, get over it and let's enjoy the next game

  2. avatar Morné says:
    September 18th, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    Said the same thing on twitter a second ago.

    A mistake was made, this guy will not ref another test this year I can almost guarantee everyone.

    Let’s stay classy and not become like poofball supporters and move on.

  3. avatar Boertjie says:
    September 18th, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    Poite’s was a gross mistake. He had all
    the technological assistance one can
    hope for.
    He chose to ignore it.

  4. avatar Jacques(Bunny) says:
    September 18th, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    @Boertjie: Like Dobson say oom, players made mistakes as well so should we ask HM to show them the road.

    Jannie had three miss tackles and that led to two tries, but I am sure he will play in the next match because he did more good on the field than those three mistakes.

    Poite made one huge mistake and he is paying for it, like Morne said he will most properly not take charge of another match this year in international, get over it and move is what we must do now.

  5. avatar Jacques(Bunny) says:
    September 18th, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    …and to start questioning Garcès that will take charge of the Newlands test is just plain stupid from people now

  6. avatar biltongbek says:
    September 18th, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    It is all good and well to move on, I have no issue with that.

    What we need to concede however is that public outcry is the only way the IRB is going to act and attempt to find solutions for these refereeing errors.

    I do however not agree with comparing a player error with that of a gross incomoetent call that ruins a test match.

    If a player commits an error, his team suffers in that moment, when a referee ficks up like this, it costs a team 40 minutes.

    Big difference.

    I don’t subscirbe to conspiracy theories ( although I admit they are rather fun to read) and I agree they do nobody any good.

    Let the IRB ensure this doesn’t happen again, supporters pay lots of money to see a fair contest, we pave the way financially for this sport to be professional, referees are professional, and as they are the sole adjudicator of a test match, their individual responsibility is far greater than any individual player.

  7. avatar Jacques(Bunny) says:
    September 18th, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    @biltongbek: Can not fault that!

  8. avatar Morné says:
    September 18th, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    @biltongbek:

    Fair enough; refs need to improve but we need to allow them to improve too.

    The game has a huge problem convincing folks to become refs because of the over-the-top criticism they receive a lot of the times.

    Understand, I am not defending Poite in this specific instance, but I have been around enough braai’s, in enough pubs and even listened to enough so-called ‘experts’ on TV to know that for 5 things referees are criticised for 4 out of those 5 things the ref was right and the one critting doesn’t know his laws.

    My fear is our game turning into the farce that roundball shit is.

    Like Mr. Dobson made clear above, refs are scrutinized, they are also penalised (removed from panels) – we as fans must just guard against becoming over-emotional about such issues.

    Criticise when the instance deserves it, but let’s not become like those poofball hooligans.

  9. avatar biltongbek says:
    September 18th, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    Morne, I accpet what you are saying.

    Rugby stands above any other sport when it comes to passion for the game.

    The reason why I beleive that is purely because of the nature of the sport, it is about our carnal instincts that is awakened when watching our teams bash into each other.

    The unfortunate fact is due to thise emotions supporters will always go over the top, yes sometimes unfailry, but they will nonetheless blow things out of proportion when events unfold like they did this past weekend.

    The way I see it, Springboks supports have got some beleif back, they beleived we stood a chance this last weekend, the utter disappointment for many is simply to hard to bare, and they will act out, some more than others.

    It is human nature and there for inevitable.

    The IRB knows this, yet they have been talkying about and not been pro active in the anner they look after the game.

    How long have fans been asking for laws left less to interpretation and easier to understand and adjudicate.

    I was speaking to my Son’s coach earlier this season, he is going through the motions of becoming a referee.

    He told me that they hav these video clips as part of their studies where they must comment on a specific ruck, maul or whatever.

    And they can’t even get consensus in a classroom.

    Does that not tell you where the problem originates?

  10. avatar Craven says:
    September 19th, 2013 at 8:47 am

    I can agree that Romain made an honest mistake in his first assessment of the tackle.

    What he did after was deliberate. He chose not to watch the tackle on replay. He chose not to ask the TMO to have a look at the tackle. He chose to be influenced by ABs captain Read who came up to the ref and said “no arms and high” and ignore De Villiers when he enquired as to what was wrong with the tackle.

    How was all that an honest mistake?

    By the way, my brother actually went to go and watch the game. Springboks against All Blacks in NZ was something we had always wanted to do. After the game was ruined, what recourse do fans who spent lots of money have, when an official “accidently” ruins a game completely that you have to pay loads of money to watch? There are no refunds.

    A shrug of the shoulders from the IRB and a comment that is was and honest “pisstake”, sorry “misstake” should suffice.

    I hear what you guys and Mr Dobson are trying to say, I just find it unacceptable that this instance could have been avoided completely due to the fact that all the assistance the referee could ever have wanted or needed were at his dispossal. And he DELIBERITELY chose to ignore it.

    That is my last words on the subject. I’ll move on now.

  11. avatar Mug Punters Organisation of South Africa says:
    September 19th, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Do you get yellow for playing the man in the air?

    Can you issue a yellow for professional foul and a yellow for dangerous play at the same time?

    Indeed time to move on another game shortly. The Boks were kak really!

  12. avatar JT_BOKBEFOK! says:
    September 19th, 2013 at 9:23 am

    If any of you ever refereed a game you will know that in the moment it can get tough – yes he f-ed up and everyone f’s up now and again.
    deliberate?? if anything he was flustered with a 100 things going on at the same time, talking to the captains & the TJ’s while the TMO was looking at the video then the TMO says no foul play and adds “GO AHEAD WITH ORIGINAL DECISION” which he did.
    Deliberate?? Please!

  13. avatar Johan Fritz says:
    September 19th, 2013 at 9:37 am

    That's what I said!!!

  14. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    September 19th, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Fortunately the actual guys that count… the coaching staff and players seem to have moved on a while ago…

    Only thing they need to concentrate on is not slipping up against the Wallabies…

    With Horwill back, the new half-back paring having their second run together, the monster Timani back to boost the pack along with the best LH in Aus recalled… they will be a different beast…

  15. avatar Craven says:
    September 19th, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Their scrum will still be monstered, lineout should be better with Horwill back, in the loose Hopper got his clocks cleaned last time out, don’t see it being that much different.

    Boks should guard against complacency, but if they play to their potential Ausies are there for the taking. I do think a bonuspoint win will be more difficult this time.

  16. avatar biltongbek says:
    September 19th, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    We were kak, but how do you rate our game when the service from Pienaar was so poor?

    How do you rate us at the breakdowns when we are a man short, how do you rate our attack when the opposition always has an extra man available?

    How do you rate our defence when there is extra space for the opposition.

    Take it, forget it, and hope we have 15 men on the pitch at Ellispark.

    One thing I do believe, Australia is in for a collective mindset of determined focused non compromising Bok rugby.

  17. avatar DavidS says:
    September 20th, 2013 at 8:31 am

    You know Paul Dobson…

    Make you a deal

    If you Kiwis stop whining about referee Gert Bezuidenhout on the 1976 All Black tour of South Africa and the 1995 “Suzie” crap and the 2007 “forward pass” then maybe we have a deal…

    Until then
    f**ken shut your trap double standard peddling All Black New Zealand swine.

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