Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - All Blacks captain Richie McCaw took a swipe at his critics, including Springbok coach Peter de Villiers, by suggesting that any player who doesn’t adapt to a referee’s interpretation of the breakdown is “an idiot”.
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McCaw has been widely singled out – as Bok lock Victor Matfield put it recently “getting away with murder” at the breakdown – with consistent suggestions that referees treat the All Blacks differently to their opposition when it comes to penalising offences.
World Cup winning former Australian coach Bob Dwyer added fuel to the fire this week when he released stats that show that the Springboks and Australians concede a yellow card every six penalties, as opposed to the All Blacks who concede a yellow every 43 penalties – seven times the number for their opposition.
Dwyer has clashed publicly with International Refereeing boss Paddy O’Brien, who is from New Zealand, and suggested that referees were lenient on All Black transgressions.
Despite the overwhelming stats, McCaw defended his side, saying he “disagreed completely” with the assumption that was being made.
“I don’t agree with you on that,” he shot back when presented with the statistics. “When you put stats like that out then I suppose you will come to a conclusion but in my view, it has never felt like that.
“When you get close to a yellow card, you need to get back and make sure you don’t give another penalty away. When you get a warning you have to be smart about it. All those stats do is to show that this is the case with us.”
McCaw then went further, firing the broadside at his critics.
“When you are there you have to adapt to the referees interpretations. That’s what frustrates me the most about this debate, is that players don’t learn the way the referee interprets the breakdown,” McCaw explained.
“You can moan about it all you like but if you’re not getting what you want then you’re an idiot. You need to change personally and for the team. Statistics doesn’t always tell the full picture.”
McCaw said he felt the interpretations had changed “a little” since the Super 14, but was happy that the breakdown was now “a fair contest again”.
“I think we were pinned a lot at the start of the Super 14 but it has come back to where it is a good contest. You have to have a change of habit and nobody has gotten away with anything in the Tri Nations. It is now a good contest and should a guy be isolated and another arrives on his feet, he has the rights.
“But if you do it right and protect your ball, then you have the opportunity to play with the ball in hand. Balance is the key here and I think the interpretations are good the way they are currently. I don’t have too many worries. You have to adapt to each referee because no ref is identical.”
However McCaw’s critics will respond by saying that is the crux of their argument after all – that the breakdown is now interpreted to suit McCaw and not the rest of the world.