Rugby Championship

No Bryce a good start for SA?

2012-09-04 11:26
Bryce Lawrence (File)

Cape Town – First the “bad” news for South Africans ... a New Zealander will again be among the officiating panel when the Springboks play Australia on Saturday for the first time since the controversial quarter-final of the World Cup last year.

But no, this time Bryce Lawrence, who infuriated both the Boks and their supporters – not to mention plenty of neutrals too – with his policing of the breakdown in that 11-9 reverse for John Smit’s otherwise largely dominant outfit in Wellington, is well out of the picture.

Lawrence was removed from the International Rugby Board’s elite panel of referees earlier this year.

The Boks meet the Wallabies in the Castle Rugby Championship in Perth on Saturday – an attempted redemption outing for both sides after disappointing early performances in the new-look tournament – but this time with Northern Hemisphere referee Nigel Owens in charge.

The 41-year-old Welshman takes charge of a South African Test for the eighth time, and the Boks sport five wins from the seven matches he has refereed (71% record).

He has never previously had the whistle for matches between these particular foes, although he has handled some milestone Bok wins, including the record-breaking 42-6 thrashing of England at Twickenham in 2008 and two of the three South African victories over arch-rivals the All Blacks in the Tri-Nations-winning season of 2009.

Owens was in charge when the Boks won 31-19 in Durban and then again for the decisive clash in Hamilton when the visitors edged it 32-29.

New Zealand’s emerging Glen Jackson, a former Chiefs flyhalf, will be running the line at the Patersons Stadium on Saturday, but he has not yet given South African fans any special reason for wrath at first-class level.

The other assistant referee will be England’s Wayne Barnes, with Matt Goddard (Australia) the television match official.

If Lawrence was a key figure in the World Cup quarter-final furore, another was the Wallaby “fetcher” David Pocock, who was perceived to have got away with murder on the deck thanks to the referee’s alleged leniency.

But he is also absent from this clash, and misses the remainder of the Championship after knee surgery, so the Boks may have even further reason to hope for some sort of “new leaf” on Saturday in clashes with Australia ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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