Eliminate the perception. It really is that simple,

Liam Napier
By: Liam Napier

Liam Napier is a sports writer for NZME

Accusing referees of bias in the modern age is a stretch but why leave the door open?

Super Rugby continues to put referees in this unnecessary position. Their job is tough enough without another added layer of scrutiny on the big stage.

Four South African officials will oversee the Lions and Hurricanes semifinal in Johannesburg this weekend; the same was true of the Chiefs quarter-final victory over the Stormers in Cape Town last week.

In that match, we had an incident where South African TMO Johan Greeff called for a review and twice overruled countryman Jaco Peyper. The upshot was Chiefs flanker Sam Cane copping a yellow card.

Earlier this year the Blues were dudded in Cape Town after South African officials failed to punish Shaun Treeby for knocking out Blues playmaker Piers Francis. Treeby was then suspended for four weeks.

Crusaders fans have also made mention of Glen Jackson, who played 60 games for the Chiefs, being the man in the middle for Saturday’s semifinal in Christchurch, though this is a longbow to draw.

If we take our lead from the test arena, rugby’s pinnacle, neutral officials are guaranteed.
The 2015 World Cup final between the All Blacks and Australia? Wales’ Nigel Owens took charge. The All Blacks last test in South Africa? France’s Jerome Garces had the whistle. The All Blacks last test of 2016 in Paris? England’s Wayne Barnes. And on it goes.

Why should Super Rugby be any different?

Super Rugby’s excuse for not having neutral officials is poor – cost cutting. If that is indeed the case, surely Sanzaar can at least dig into its pockets and folk out for seven playoff games each year. This is the time when decision-making comes under the blowtorch.

But, with so much now at stake, why put him and his three South African colleagues in this situation?

Organisers should at least get it right next week with Australian Angus Gardner expected to get the final.

Not everyone agrees with neutral officials. The All Blacks would have been more than happy to see Owens take charge of all three Lions tests last month. Many believe the best man should get the job.

This is also not a new issue. Jackson controlled last year’s final between the Hurricanes and Lions in Wellington.

But given Super Rugby’s precarious place in the sporting landscape at present, why take the risk?

If the TMO in Johannesburg makes a howler this weekend, the backlash will inevitably come.

Super Rugby playoff officials:
Lions v Hurricanes, Johannesburg:
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
AR1: Marius van der Westhuizen (SA)
AR2: Rasta Rasivhenge (SA)
TMO: Marius Jonker (SA)

Crusaders v Chiefs, Christchurch:
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
AR1: Angus Gardner (Australia)
AR2: Ben O’Keeffe (NZ)
TMO: Glenn Newman (NZ)