Gary Boshoff

Poor form from Stormers

2010-06-01 12:12
Gary Boshoff
Gary Boshoff

I was astounded to hear Stormers captain Schalk Burger whine about the referee’s application of the laws (at the post-match interview of) after the Super 14 Final on Saturday. I was further taken aback when Allister Coetzee, World Cup winning coach (2007 IRB World Cup) did the same but then afterwards acknowledged that the Bulls deserved to win.

These comments about the referee was completely uncalled for and was a classic case of both coach and captain unable to deal with their defeat in a honourable and professional manner. Instead they chose to attack the referee.

This season there has been many occasions where referees did not live up to the required standard of their profession.  In fact, in some instances this contributed to the losses of various Super 14 teams which included South African, Australian and New Zealand sides. Nevertheless, I must say that I have not heard any of the captains of the New Zealand or Australian franchises criticise the referee as directly as Schalk Burger did on Saturday. Kevin Mealamu, Richie McCaw and Nathan Sharp found themselves at the short end of referees’ decisions on a number of occasions, some of which negatively impacted on their play-off chances, but not once did they stoop to the level of singling out the referee at the post-match interviews.

Schalk Burger and Allister Coetzee’s conduct was unprofessional and detracted from the event, but more importantly, from the Bulls’ hugely deserved win. I hope they are reprimanded by their employers for this behaviour and that we don’t see a repetition of this form of unsportsmanlike behaviour from a South African captain or coach in future.

In the same way I was also taken by surprise when renowned rugby journalists stopped just short of calling Craig Joubert a cheat, suggesting that he deliberately favoured the Bulls by selectively applying the laws of the game.  This is normally the kind of cavalier comments you’d find in the “Letter to the Editor” section in newspapers or in the comments sections websites, but is not usually expected from pundits or seasoned rugby writers. 

I understand and accept that the feverish support some supporters have for their teams tend to boil over into irrational statements and emotional comments about referees and the opposing team – it has been and will remain part of the local Rugby culture for many years to come. However, when the bona fides of referees are blatantly and defiantly questioned by members of the rugby media it is a cause for concern.

Craig Joubert’s apparent sin was the fact that at the start of the Super 14 season he was asked to coach the Bulls on the correct application of the laws at the breakdown – this has now come back to haunt him. It seems that because of this he has been labelled a Bulls man.

In an earlier column I questioned Sanzar’s merit-based appointment system for referees and the potential conflict of interest that might arise from the appointment of local officials to handle matches against overseas franchises. This system, though noble in its objective, is a system that will continue to expose Sanzar and individual referees to unnecessary controversy in future.  

Notwithstanding this, the comments from Schalk Burger and Allister Coetzee as well as accusations of cheating against Craig Joubert, illustrates the need to appoint referees that are perceived to be absolutely neutral (in this case it should have been either a New Zealand or Australian referee). If Craig Joubert, who is from KwaZulu-Natal, can be accused of favouring the Bulls ahead of the Stormers in this South African derby, imagine what Richie McCaw and the Crusaders management must have really felt at Loftus when their dreams of a home semi-final were destroyed by Marius Jonker and Jaco Peyper?

What is sad about all of this is that despite these accusations of cheating and poor application of the laws by the referee, there is general consensus that despite everything, the Bulls deserved to win and are the rightful 2010 Super 14 champions. This, I believe, Schalk Burger and Allister Coetzee would have realised at half-time already. Why then, did they feel the need to target the referee?

For now though, I sure hope that they’ve learned from their gaffe at the post-match interviews and improve their public relations etiquette accordingly.  

Gary Boshoff is a former Saru player and current Afrikaans rugby commentator on SuperSport.

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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