Gary Boshoff

Quit questioning the ref!

2011-09-13 09:14
Sport24 columnist Gary Boshoff (File)
Gary Boshoff

A more frustrating Sunday morning I could not have imagined. What with the resurgent Welsh dragons upstaging the Springboks at what was supposed to be a triumphant opening of their Rugby World Cup campaign - I very nearly drowned in my morning tea!

A huge disappointment it turned out to be indeed.

A few weeks ago I warned against the Springboks becoming too complacent and in the process neglecting the “small stuff” (little, but important irritations that they needed to urgently address ahead of the 2011 RWC). 

One of the things high on my list at the time was the nasty habit of players visibly complaining and showing dissatisfaction with the referee’s decisions and interpretations on the field of play: John Smit was the leading culprit in the Tri-Nations Test against the Wallabies in Durban. 

On Saturday it started with Jannie du Plessis complaining constantly to the referee about apparent transgressions being committed by his immediate opponent and which the referee (according to Jannie) overlooked. 

Well… after Jannie’s third such moaning session the referee penalised him (Jannie) at the next scrum! Three points! 

By constantly moaning in the face and ears of the referee and visibly displaying your disagreement and dissatisfaction with his decisions you will only succeed in turning the referee against you. This is a proven fact, something I’m sure Neville Heilbron, the Springboks’ resident referee, must have advised them of.

So yes, apart from the poor rugby performance from the team as a whole, what irritated me the most was the way captain Smit, Du Plessis and especially Fourie du Preez, displayed their unhappiness over decisions made by the referee during the match. Their body language reflected disapproval and frustration whenever they appealed to the referee and his assistants. This in my view smacked of arrogance, a lack of respect towards the match officials and unprofessional conduct, in short, behavior unbecoming of the defending world champions. 

It seems that while these players were trying very hard to interpret the laws of the game for the referee, they forgot to play. Wales merrily went along and dominated all facets of the game barring the 12 minutes of rugby wherein which the Springboks scored their two tries.

Contrary to the disrespect showed towards the match officials by the Springbok players, Wales coach Warren Gatland and captain Sam Warburton were the ultimate professional leaders, not complaining (either during the match or thereafter) about the disallowed penalty goal which everyone seem to agree was over and would have won them the match. 

They later refused to petition the IRB despite the referee having had the option to refer the decision back to the TMO for a ruling. They’ve shown respect for the occasion, this being the rugby showcase that happens only once every four years. 

Being the defending champions and the most experienced Test squad at the tournament, it was to be expected of the Springboks to exhibit such class and professional conduct under pressure, but alas, it is clear that we still fall far short on the “professional scorecard”.

So while we might have prevailed despite the pitiful performance, the Springboks must realise that things will get even worse if they don’t get off their high, arrogant horse immediately and stop playing the paranoid victim of every referee that dares to penalise them. 

It is further distressing to note that it is our most experienced leaders (Smit and Du Preez) that are the main transgressors. It is they who must lead with example and tact when the very physical Fijians and the Samoans start piling into the rucks and mauls, testing the referees’ resolve in the tackle and on the ground. The Springboks cannot afford to spend any time on the referee during these encounters; they must channel all their energy and focus towards the speedy and very physical Fijian and Samoan ball carriers that will charge at them for 80 minutes.

The Welsh performance (and those of Japan, USA and Romania) have inspired the “underdogs” to cause a major upset at some point during this tournament. Both Fiji and Samoa nearly did it in 2007 and they would indeed have garnered added self-belief that they can beat the Springboks.

Let’s hope that this time around the Springboks turn up to play and not to assess the referee.

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

Disclaimer: 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.

Read more on:    rwc  |  gary boshoff

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