Cape Town – The South African Rugby Union has spiritedly
knocked back suggestions that it did not take a powerful enough stance
following the “Bismarck du Plessis affair” in the Castle Rugby Championship
Test between New Zealand and South Africa in Auckland.
The Springbok hooker has subsequently had his controversial
red card, issued by French referee Romain Poite at Eden Park on Saturday,
erased by a SANZAR judicial officer, and he is clear to represent the country
against the Wallabies if chosen at Newlands on Saturday week.
But some domestic critics and fans have raged that it is
“too little too late” as the dismissal of Du Plessis badly dented the Boks’
prospects of winning at their long-time bogey venue; the All Blacks eventually
There have been numerous accusations that SARU is “soft” on
such perceived injustices, and one rugby writer even suggested the Boks should
have left the field in protest.
SARU CEO Jurie Roux, however, has pooh-poohed the notion
that the domestic governing body did not act swiftly or decisively enough.
In a wide-ranging interview this week with Sport24 – other
aspects of it will appear over the course of the next few days -- Roux said:
“Yes, we’re very emotional too ... we were as angry as so many others on
Saturday when it (Du Plessis’ two yellow cards) happened.
“But from a SA Rugby point of view we have to operate within
structures. As with any other business, there’s no point us getting all
emotional in the media and trying to castrate somebody!
“You have to follow procedures: on Saturday evening we were
already writing to the IRB and SANZAR. We were in email correspondence
throughout Sunday and got them to acknowledge there was a mistake and it
shouldn’t have happened.
“The result of that is Bissie got off scot-free on both
counts which was a good result for us. The recourse for us is through that
method -- speaking to SANZAR, speaking to IRB, the referees’ selectors.
“It is up to them to ensure either the referee in question
gets rehabilitated or comes off the present panel. We can’t alter what happened
on the field.
“Of course we’re emotional: at times in those first 10, 15
minutes I myself thought ‘here we go, this is our day’, and then a wrong
decision by the referee did spoil our day. The spectators were deprived of a
proper contest, but we’ve certainly taken the measures we could ... and we’ve
seen a response.”
Roux said it would be unfair to lambast the appointment of
Poite’s compatriot Jerome Garces for the looming Test against Australia.
“We’ve got a French referee at Newlands, but the referees
also have processes to follow and just because he’s French like (Poite) we
can’t simply assume he’ll be the same as the previous one. We’ve got to abide
by (the appointment).
“I do need to say this, too: We can’t play the game without
referees. We’ve got a lack of good-quality referees in the world; South Africa
produces the best by far and we’re never going to see them for our
“But if everybody keeps (sniping) at referees, we won’t have
them in a couple of years’ time. We must be vigilant when things are done
wrongly, but also need to be supportive to get them to a level where they are
genuinely of international standard and can compete.
“We have to afford the IRB the opportunity to really develop
that area – it’s only been an area they’ve really concentrated on for the past
four or five years and hopefully they’ll get some results.
“But people have got to learn somewhere, and if the top four
or five referees in the world are all South African, it’s unfortunately a
reality that we will always get numbers six, seven and eight for our own Tests.”
Roux concurred that there was a fine line between making
dissatisfaction with officialdom known, and the danger of becoming perceived
worldwide as serial moaners.
“That is (true), though the thing I don’t always agree with
is the whole ‘cowboys don’t cry’ notion after a match. I think that can be
counter-productive as well.
“You should, indeed, lodge your complaints, lodge your
reports, because if you don’t do it, you are actually just acknowledging you’re
happy with what (the referees) are doing out on the pitch. That’s not
acceptable to us either.
“So no, we don’t cry in the media – that won’t make any
difference. We go through procedure. We’d want people to do exactly the same if
they felt we’d done something wrong, too. We operate within the structure – if
you go outside it, you’ll get no results.
“We wrote very strong letters to the IRB and SANZAR over
what we thought of Saturday, believe me. Before the end of the game my first
email had already gone.
“We actually got acknowledgement from New Zealand through
their CEO (Steve Tew), saying that both our coach (Heyneke Meyer) and captain
(Jean de Villiers) were a credit to our side in not trying to emotionally
heighten this unfortunate situation at present.
“Bear in mind that there are very strict rules governing
what they say, so that may also have played a role, but the reality is we have
a very strong team at the moment, a good captain and coach, and they are trying
a different ethos ... taking it on the chin when we lose and then just bouncing
back. And we are making headway as a Test side.”
*More aspects of the
interview with Jurie Roux will appear on www.Sport24.co.za shortly