Rugby Championship

Ref: Boks get NZ, Oz support

2014-09-08 19:03
George Clancy (Getty Images)
Cape Town - Springbok management may have opted more for diplomacy than anything else after the latest refereeing gaffes against the team, but the Bok plight has earned firm media sympathy in both Australia and New Zealand.

South Africa were victims of costly errors by Irish official George Clancy - just the latest international whistle-man to become a “dirty word” among an already long list of them back in SA - in their Castle Rugby Championship defeat by the Wallabies in Perth on Saturday.

That fact has been acknowledged even in leading Aussie media circles, and the same applies to organs in New Zealand, where the Boks next square up to the world champion All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday (09:35 SA time).

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald ( after the Boks’ 24-23 slip-up, rugby scribe Paul Cully said: “While the International Rugby Board fiddles around with re-branding, its referees burn us all - coaches, players and supporters.

“Quite what George Clancy was looking at when he incorrectly sent Bryan Habana to the sin bin in the defining moment of the Wallabies v Springboks game is anyone’s guess.

“Replays show Adam Ashley-Cooper coming in and down towards the Springbok wing, whose left arm, which is at a downward angle, is level with Ashley-Cooper’s upper arm at its highest point. In fact, Habana’s left hand is almost touching the ball at first contact.

“It was just a penalty, as assistant referee Mike Fraser appeared to suggest to Clancy ... and Duane Vermeulen’s earlier shot on James Slipper wasn’t even that.”

Across the proverbial ditch in New Zealand, Herald on Sunday rugby writer Gregor Paul said the refereeing blunders in both Championship Tests on Saturday affected the credibility of the tournament.

Paul said he first thought sanity was going to prevail over the Habana incident: “The Irishman, having instinctively reached for his card, calmed down, took a look on the big screen and then went back into his pocket - it’s questionable whether it was even a penalty (but) it was a game-changer.

“The time-honoured belief that the universe will right itself over the course of a season is hard to sustain: it seems that things don’t really right themselves in the wash and South Africa in particular may be wondering if they have been forever cast as victims, being hard done by Clancy and also Romain Poite at Eden Park last year.”

Meanwhile in Monday’s New Zealand Herald (, columnist Chris Rattue described the banishment of Habana as “a ridiculous joke” which played a “huge part” in tilting the balance of the Test.

“Too many major stuff-ups - Bismarck du Plessis’s incorrect dismissal by Poite springs to mind - are ruining the game’s credibility.”

But Rattue cautioned against any calls to dump northern hemisphere officials from the Championship, “especially as their fitness and ability to keep up with the southern game is often questioned”.

He said they needed to stay for a few reasons, including that their presence helped the big southern hemisphere powers prepare for what they would face at the UK-staged World Cup next year.

South African rugby supporters have an impressive list of names of referees -from both sides of the equator - in recent years that get them hot under the collar, with Clancy now joining the likes of Poite, World Cup 2011 quarter-final nemesis Bryce Lawrence, Stuart Dickinson and Paul Honiss as objects of derision for various reasons.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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