Lions look to refs to crack down on professional fouls
Brendan Nel - SuperSport.com
Johannesburg - The Lions are hoping that referee Jaco Peyper will be hard on infringements in the 22m area, especially those which are professional fouls.
According to the SuperSport website, while New Zealanders will debate it fiercely, there is a growing consensus that their teams - from Super Rugby teams to the All Blacks - give away a higher percentage of penalties in their own red zone to avoid conceding tries, and very often get away with it without consequences.
Referees have often picked it up late, but there is a tendency to see the penalty sanction as a lesser one than the try that may inevitably come and many teams see it as a risk worth taking on defence if their first line of defence is breached.
The Springboks have raised this question often in the past, as have other international teams, but the All Blacks in particular have been exceptionally good at covering their tracks, and often are given the benefit of the doubt by referees in this regard.
Again in last week’s quarter-finals there was a clear case for a yellow card early in the Lions-Crusaders game, as Courtnall Skosan came close to the line after Faf de Klerk intercepted, only to be stopped short and Reid went clearly off his feet to slow down the ball and prevent a quick recycle that could have led to a try.
While referee Craig Joubert picked it up and awarded a penalty, the offence was in the yellow card zone and prevented a try being scored as many of the Crusaders defenders had not fallen back after De Klerk burst his way through with the intercept.
While the Lions used the penalty well and scored a few minutes later, small margins like this are crucial and the Lions are keen to see that this is punished hard if it happens again this weekend in the Vodacom Super Rugby semi-final against the Highlanders.
Lions assistant coach Swys de Bruin agrees that the Crusaders were lucky to get away with the incident, and wants it policed tough when the game gets underway at Emirates Airline Park.
“It could have been a card, but I respect the decision - and that isn’t saying Craig Joubert didn’t do a great job on the day - I thought he was brilliant. But what he did there was tough,” De Bruin said when quizzed on the incident.
“When you have that scoring chance, and a player does that, then it is a professional foul and needs to be dealt with.
“The referees normally do pin players, but some players get away with murder, they do it a bit more astute than the rest.
“He (Reid) did fall, then come back, then fall again and then look at him very innocently.”
The Highlanders aren’t a team that normally is seen as negative, but did live very dangerously in their final minutes against the Brumbies last week as well, with one or two 50-50 decisions going their way as they defended their line at the end to squeak out a win.
But come Saturday the negative tactics need to be highlighted early from either team, and stamped out quickly. The Lions will be hoping the referees involved stamp their authority early, so the game can be the spectacle it is building up to be.
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