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A tale of wrong referees and unfair advantage


Spiro Zavos

TOM Keneally, wordsmith, describes the hype before big matches as the foreplay. Not unexpectedly, the qualifying finals between the Crusaders and Bulls and the Reds and Sharks have generated intense discussion. We've had accusations that the Reds shouldn't have their home-ground advantage. There has been heated discussion about the appointing of South African referees to officiate at the two finals. And rows over whether the often non-tackling Quade Cooper deserved his week's suspension for a dangerous tackle on Berrick Barnes. My short answer is: no.

SANZAR makes a valid point that the winning conference team having a home-ground advantage in the finals is the natural outcome of having a tournament played in three countries. To maintain an interest in the finals in all three countries each conference needs to be guaranteed one home match final. The system does this. I think, though, it should be tweaked to allow the grand final to be played at the home ground of the team that has won the most points in the pool rounds. There is the possibility (admittedly remote) that the Reds and the Crusaders could meet in the final. This would be played at Brisbane. Fairness requires it should be played at Christchurch. The Crusaders finished higher on the points table than the Reds.

I wouldn't hold my breath about SANZAR making this reasonable change. For, on another important matter involving fairness, SANZAR has failed miserably. I am talking about the appointment of the referees for tonight's matches. Jonathan Kaplan is refereeing the Reds-Sharks match and Jaco Peyper is refereeing the Crusaders-Bulls match. Kaplan and Peyper are South Africans. It is not acceptable for the integrity of the finals matches, nor is it fair to the referees that they be placed in the situation where allegations of "home country decisions" can be raised.

SANZAR's game manager Lyndon Bray, a New Zealander and a former excellent referee, has stated that these appointments fulfil three key criteria - overall performance throughout the tournament, accuracy in the big calls and "the right fit for the game". I don't buy this argument. It overlooks the protocol (except in Super Rugby) that neutrals should referee big matches. Kaplan, also, is past his best. Why is Craig Joubert, South Africa's best referee and referee in the 2011 RWC final, not officiating rather than running the sideline as an assistant referee?

The assertion that Peyper is the "right fit" for the Crusaders-Bulls finals is even more ludicrous. Peyper is promising but overrated. He was the referee at Pretoria when two Bulls alleged they were eye-gouged by Crusaders players. Not a shred of evidence was brought forward to justify the allegations. SANZAR has white-washed some unacceptable gamesmanship by the Bulls. The allegations came when the Crusaders were well on top in the match. After the allegations, the tide of the game changed. On the back of eight successful penalties out of 10 attempts kicked by Morne Steyn, the Bulls won 32-30. There was also a controversial and wrong shepherding decision by Peyper (on advice of an assistant referee) overruling a Crusaders try near the end.

We come back to Tom Keneally to explain why SANZAR just doesn't get it with its policy against neutral referees. The great Sea Eagles tragic, told the Herald in relation to the big Manly-Canterbury match: "I'm as irrational as anyone when it comes to supporting my footy team - I seem to naturally have it in for the referees." The point is that the referees are not biased, the supporters are. SANZAR is pouring oil on a fire by having nationals refereeing sides from their own country in the finals.

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Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
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Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR 36 vs AUS 40 Report Stats
USA 6 vs NZL 74 Report Stats
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Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 24 vs SAM 13 Report Stats
ENG 21 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
WAL 28 vs AUS 33 Report Stats
FRA 40 vs FJI 14 Report Stats
IRE 29 vs RSA 15 Report Stats
SCO 41 vs ARG 31 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 18 vs ARG 20 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs RSA 31 Report Stats
WAL 17 vs FJI 13 Report Stats
SCO 16 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
FRA 29 vs AUS 26 Report Stats
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE 49 vs GEO 7 Report Stats
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Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 6 vs RSA 22 Report Stats
SCO 37 vs TGA 12 Report Stats
IRE 26 vs AUS 23 Report Stats
WAL 16 vs NZL 34 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs SAM 9 Report Stats
FRA 13 vs ARG 18 Report Stats
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Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG 26 vs AUS 17 Report Stats
WAL 12 vs RSA 6 Report Stats
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