Reffing hell: Middle men ruining rugby


Another big game, another poor refereeing performance – world rugby is not far from crisis in regard to the state of officialdom- by Gregor Paul from NZ Herald


Jaco Peyper’s confusing and erratic decisions in the opening Bledisloe Cup clash have meant confidence isn’t high that the Rugby Championship will fulfil its potential as a provider of drama and spectacle.

Rugby’s recent history has been dominated by games where the role played by the referee was viewed as the decisive factor. Games where both teams felt the referee’s actions altered the nature and outcome of the contest.

Peyper’s name is just one more to add to the list. The South African was inconsistent and – as hinted by the All Blacks – just plain wrong at times in the 12-all draw in Sydney
The players were denied the opportunity to play the game they wanted and instead of rugby, it became Cluedo – crimes being committed with no one sure whether it was Colonel Mustard with the candlestick in the library or Mrs Peacock with some rope in the conservatory.

The Herald has learned that several international coaches are keen to engage the IRB in meaningful discussion about how to fix the problem: how to help the world’s leading officials more regularly produce the consistency required.

There are genuine concerns about the inadequacies of many of the top referees and real fears that if the men in the middle aren’t up to it the game won’t survive. Even the most ardent followers will rush into the arms of rival codes if rugby continues to be more about the whims and vagaries of the referee than the players.

A cursory trawl through the past few years paints an alarming picture of big tests dominated by bad refereeing.

There was the 2011 World Cup quarter-final between Australia and South Africa. There was also the World Cup final; even Kiwis can’t deny they enjoyed a fair degree of leniency in that.

Last year’s test against South Africa at Eden Park was ruined by a horrid decision by Romain Poite to yellow-card Bismarck du Plessis for a legal tackle and, while not a test, the Super Rugby final was determined by a decision Craig Joubert’s compatriot and former referee Jonathan Kaplan said was all wrong.

All Black coach Steve Hansen revealed after the weekend’s test that several times in the past 18 months they had had confirmation from the referees involved that yellow cards handed out were incorrect.

His frustration is palpable. He, like every other international coach, must wonder exactly who these days can be trusted to referee the contest properly. He must wonder if the IRB in its infinite wisdom is prepared to accept there is a serious problem and do something about it.

 All Blacks: Were the yellow cards deserved?

Hansen, unlike other international coaches, has reason to wonder if referees are specifically targeting his team.

The 14-9 penalty count against the All Blacks in Sydney was hard to fathom. The two yellow cards to Beauden Barrett and Wyatt Crockett were not hard to understand, but the fact that Australia went unpunished for similar infringements was.

Still, Hansen would only allude to rather than demonstrate the full extent of his annoyance.

“It was difficult,” he said of the task facing his forwards. ” I don’t know if you can blame the forwards for that … If you’re not getting the continuity and the referee is penalising you, it’s difficult to get a dominant platform.

“We’ve got to go away and take a look at some of that stuff and work out if we were in the wrong and if we were in the right – what we were doing that was causing him [Peyper] to think we were in the wrong.

“There’s no point in having a conversation with the ref if he’s not here; it’s a conversation I’ll have in trying to get some understanding. It was a tough night to ref so we’ll just cop it and move on.”

NZ Herald

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Better known as Bunny, Took over after Pissant went over to the "Dark Side"


  1. And last year with the Bismarck circus they excepted the decision….mmmmhhh

    As soon as the AB get penalised or god forbid Richie get problems the ref is kak….

    Peyper was useless but was not the reason for the AB kak day on the field, they did that to themselves.

  2. @Morné: Morne I though he was just plain scared in the last 5 min not to give away a penalty that will win the game for either team, he even said no easy penalties anymore. A penalty is a penalty and if he gave that in the rest of the game why not when teams are level and in the last few minutes?

    Peyper was not consistant as was that idiot that blew for the Boks Argie game.

    I do not care if a ref is kak as long as he is kak both ways.

    But AB can be lucky they were not penalised more in the game.

  3. @Jacques(Bunny):

    Have to agree. Some of Peyper’s scrum calls were also confusing. As for our ref against the Argies, very inconsistent.

    Argentina repeatedly piled into rucks and immediately went to ground over the ball, it makes it very hard to clean them out effectively or to try and steal their ball. Yet the referee turned a blind eye to this for most of the game. I had to chuckle when he decided to then penalise Eben for going off his feet and over the ball, sealing it off. Some consistency please mr ref.

    Also the speed with which they shot up in defence was impressive, except they were constantly creeping over the off-side line, again no sanction from the ref.

  4. @ Craven
    “Also the speed with which they shot up in defence was impressive, except they were constantly creeping over the off-side line, again no sanction from the ref.”

    Thanks Craven – that’s what I was wondering. We all know about the weather et al. I also noticed that Argentina was on SA like a cheap suit throughout the day. So much so that ( I didn’t review game) if they were NOT offsides a fair bit of the time I would be mightily impressed & defensive coaches should really view for inspiration as to how its to be done.

    Above if true, doesn’t take a thing away from the great open field tackling displayed by the Argie backs.

  5. I really think we have a gap with international referees at this stage were we have one or two who are up to standard most of the times and the rest who are useless.

    The problem is that before each tournament they decide they going to enforce a certain rule like in Super Rugby it was straight in the scrums which only lasted a few weeks and then it is gone now in Rugby Championship and CC it is spoiling and negative play which will also last also a few weeks.

    These laws is suppose to managed always in the game and you can not decided one day you look more for this than for that. It is confusing to players and supporters and just keep people unhappy with the game in total.

  6. PS…
    The great tackling skills of Argentina also highlight just how much of a rampaging Viking Duane Vermuleon is with ball in hand.
    Yeah it was wet, but that didn’t stop Argentina from nailing everyone else. DV consistently dragged & slipped 2-3 of the powder blue pumas for big chunks of yardage each time he had the ball.

    Everyone goes on & on & on about Etzbeth, how he’s so great etc. I know he’s been hurt, but in the past I have always seen him with ball in hand cut down at the legs like a common weed.

    He should get with Vermuelen for insight as to how be big & slip/drag defenders vs just going down with a big thud for minimal yardage.
    I know he is young but I think he is definitely a guy whose hype is waaaaaay bigger than the play by play shows.

  7. Opportunistic whingeing by the ever-whingers.

    I have zero like or sympathy for their cynicism in refereeing. They only whinge when it suits them and when refs calls bias in their favour they love telling other teams they are whingers and tell them to toughen the f**k up…

    Well well well Mr Kiwi

    Toughen the f**k up…

  8. @DavidS:

    Having said that the Kiwis are of course right that refereeing is atrocious… it’s just that being usually the ones benefitting from it one will not see them whinge until it actually starts affecting outcomes.

  9. Judging a ref on scrum calls is BS, it’s a complete lottery. If you see it different than the ref, it’s because you are just guessing differently than he did. No one should be judge on impossible situations.

    And Peyper’s ruck and tackle calls were spot on.

  10. @Timeo:

    Interesting comment. How do you suggest scrums are policed then? If one cannot question the ref’s call, do we just leave it and let him do what he wants? There has to be a solution to this problem.

  11. Just to add, Poite is the ref in the AB/Wallabie game this weekend. He was the ref that blew Aus off the park in the Lions test last year due to their scrums. French refs tend to favour the scrum going forward.

    If he now penalises the Wallabies repeatedly this week after they got the rub of the green in the scrums last week, what does that tell you? As Timeo said, it is just a lottery.

  12. If it is such a lottery then perhaps penalties not resulting in kicks at posts would be best. I don’t really know but it is a conundrum.

  13. I’d like to get away from teams having to play a man or two down no matter what. Ruins games. Solution? No clue but there has to be one. Rugby is a human game & we humans are crafty.

  14. @DavidS:

    Early push
    Straight put in

    Regardless. Ive watched many scrums frame by frame and being definite about whom to blame for a collapse or turn or pop-up is extremely difficult