Morgan Piek – “Blaming the referee” for losing a game has become a huge part of South African rugby in recent years. The most famous of which is blaming Bryce Lawrence for South Africa’s “early” exit in the 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup played in New Zealand last year. I will say that Bryce had a shocker and he was a huge influence on the game, but for a team to play with 80% of the possession and still lose is not the referees fault. The Springboks did have the lead will 11 minutes left on the clock when Danie Rossouw idiotically pulled a man down in the lineout and conceded a penalty which James O’Connor converted to knock the Boks out of the World Cup…Correct call Bryce!
What amazes me the most is the fact that people pick out one incident in which they will blame the referee for a loss their side suffered. For me to say referees have flawless games would be very naïve and presumptuous. They do make mistakes – just like each and every single one of us do at work. We are all human after all. Unlike the majority of us, these referees get one look at the action, they don’t have the luxury of replays.
With the referees being involved in the game more than any single player on the field, mistakes are bound to happened. Former Sharks and Springboks coach Ian McIntosh was once famously quoted for saying “Play the game in such a way that the referee cannot influence the result”.
The fast pace at which rugby gets played these days means that more mistakes get made. Last year I interviewed South African referee Jaco Peyper. In this interview he mentioned to me that they are expected to make a substantial amount of calls and they get lambasted for one or two incorrect calls. Yet no mention ever gets made when they make a brilliant call. Brilliant calls which do in fact happen more often than one thinks.
I never really get to watch a rugby game at a braai or with friends, due to me covering a tremendous amount of games and viewing it out of a slightly different point-of-view. My biggest concern is however, on the rare occasion I do get to watch a game with other people, I’m absolutely flabbergasted when I hear the amount of criticism hurled towards the referees.
This morning I was stunned when I opened the paper and read an article on page 2 penned by the renowned rugby writer J.J. Harmse. Harmse wrote of referee Chris de Beer of the Blue Bulls Referees Association who was assaulted by a player from Hoërskool Hans Strijdom in Mookgophang (Naboomspruit) during the “Hansie-Week”.
The youngster in question has subsequently been banned from all rugby for the rest of the year. He is up for a charge of assault and there is a possibility that there will be a civil case against him as well.
Chris de Beer managed to recover enough to whistle the final game after he was knocked out cold by the schoolboy. The schoolboy in question received a red card with about two minutes remaining of the clock for head-butting an opposing player. After the game, de Beer approached the kid to confirm his number in order to write his report on the game. Chris de Beer recalled this incident by saying “Die seun het my voor die bors gegryp en vir my gesê ek het lekker k*k geblaas en my met die kop teen die wang geslaan”.
This kind of incident is totally unacceptable and brings rugby in South Africa to shame. I believe banning the kid from rugby for the remainder of the year is not punishment enough. What stops this kid from assaulting someone on the rugby field at varsity or in club rugby and possibly even killing a person in the process? There have been numerous reports of this in South Africa in recent years.
The big question is: Where did this youngster learn this kind of aggressive behaviour? One can only assume it stems from watching games on the tele with his friends or family and being exposed to aggressive behaviour hurled towards the referee.
We as South Africans have to remember, whether or not the referee is officiating and School Rugby or a Super Rugby, the man with whistle actually knows the rules of the game better than the “Average Joe” sitting in the stands or in front of his tele.
These men are professional and have all done extensive courses to reach their respective levels of refereeing. It has to be respected as much as the players we watch are respected. Just imagine how chaotic a game of rugby would be if there were no referees.
Let us all make an effort to eliminate this nasty side of rugby – it is uncalled for and has to be stopped before “Our Beautiful Game” gets tarnished.