Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Do referees have an axe to grind with South
African players, in particular, or are contestants from our country simply
transgressing the laws more often than others in Super Rugby?
That is a debate that may well raise its head again with the
release of latest statistics from the competition, suggesting that players from
the SA franchises are more vulnerable to concession of penalties than others in
the three-nation competition.
Figures issued by the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday,
after Week 14 of Super Rugby, show that as many as six South Africans feature
in the top 10 for most penalties conceded.
Whether irrelevantly or not, the news comes in the
slipstream of published extracts from controversial former Springbok coach
Peter de Villiers’s book, Politically Incorrect, in which his often fiery
differences with key officials like the New Zealand pair of IRB refereeing boss
Paddy O’Brien and Bryce Lawrence are revealed.
De Villiers maintains in the book that “South African
referees may be the best but all the decision-making power is situated
The current Super Rugby “rogues’ gallery” may be headed by
an Australian, the Western Force loose forward Matt Hodgson (24 penalties), but
the rest of the upper regions of the hit parade are monopolised by South
Only one New Zealand-based player, the Chiefs’ loosehead
prop Sona Taumalolo, makes the top 10, in joint sixth place.
Leading the South African “charge” in joint second place are
the Cheetahs’ beefy front-ranker Coenie Oosthuizen and Lions’ flank Derick
Minnie (21 penalties each).
Both Bulls first-choice props, Dean Greyling (19, fifth
spot) and Werner Kruger (18, sixth) feature, as well as Sharks and Springbok
hooker Bismarck du Plessis and the Cheetahs’ Bok open-sider Heinrich Brussow
(16, joint ninth).
At least in the case of ever-combative Du Plessis, he makes
a notable contribution in a more “positive” column: he is running joint-second
with the Highlanders’ Adam Thomson for most turnovers (29).
Leader in this category, despite his team’s 25-20 loss to
the Sharks in Durban, remains the Stormers’ own hooker Tiaan Liebenberg, with
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