Gary Boshoff

Quit blaming the referee!

2011-10-11 11:13
Sport24 columnist Gary Boshoff (File)
Gary Boshoff

It was the ref’s fault that we lost! I tried to talk to him but he didn’t listen to me! I did not grab the player’s leg, I tried to sack him! Pocock was given way too much leeway at the breakdowns and got away with murder! 

And so it has been going on and on in media reports, social networks and on television: from the Springbok captain to Springbok fans to the general public... everyone is blaming everyone else for the Springboks’ defeat, while very few acknowledge that the Springboks themselves had a hand in their defeat by the courageous Wallabies!

Even SAFA is in denial about Bafana Bafana’s exit from the African Cup of Nations tournament next year and plans to challenge CAF in order to get the specific competition rule declared ambiguous and if successful, to be re-instated for the tournament. 

Whatever happened to congratulating the winners and accepting defeat gracefully? 

The Springboks have been eliminated from the Rugby World Cup in the quarter-finals. It means that the defending world champions only managed to finish in the last eight of the tournament. 

For this achievement they received a heroes welcome from South African fans at OR Tambo on Monday. Wow!! Just for the record: we were eliminated; we did not win anything!

So what? 

It seems that celebrating and rewarding mediocrity is what we do best at the moment.

Now I know that the ignorant and the blind fanatics will in all probability spew venom in the comments page that follows this column, but the fact of the matter is that the Springboks only have themselves to blame that they are back here with us already. 

Let’s see why this is indeed the case:

• The 2011 Springbok World Cup squad were the most experienced Test squad in the history of the game in South Africa boasting 836 caps, a new record! The team that played in the quarter-final on Sunday had 10 players that played in the 2007 tournament – a memory bank of success on the biggest stage of the game! In spite of this they still managed to lose!

• The Springboks dominated both possession and territory throughout the match and had the Wallabies under siege for the best part of the game. However, despite their rich World Cup experience and the most experienced Test side ever, they could not subdue the less experienced, more youthful Aussie side.

• The Springboks dominated the scrums and lineouts and created several try-scoring opportunities which they failed to convert. In the eighth minute John Smit elected to kick for the corner instead of going for poles. This smacked of arrogance so early in the match and was a sign that the Springboks might have been over-confident for this game and that they underestimated the Wallabies.

• Smit whined in the ears of the same referee he whined at in Durban earlier this year when the Springboks also lost against the Wallabies. What made the Springbok captain think that Bryce Lawrence would listen to him this time around? Instead of whining at the ref he should have devised a tactic to neutralise the indomitable David Pocock and not waste time and energy trying to influence Lawrence.

• After the Springboks lost Heinrich Brüssow to injury early on, Pocock were basically given a free pass to run the show at the breakdowns. This is his specialty and the Springboks did not have a counter to him. The answer we had, had left the field already. In fact, in my assessment there were at least four situations where I felt Pocock deserved penalties but was denied by the referee. I agree with Robbie Deans's assessment that the referee’s interpretations at the breakdown impacted on both teams equally.

• The Springboks took the ball through five phases and more on 10 occasions, but could not breach the Wallaby tryline once.  This raises questions about the Springboks’ attack strategy, skills and patience when trying to break down the opposition defensive lines - way too predictable and lacking creativeness.

• De Villiers's biggest mistake; leaving his best forward on the bench for three-quarters of the most important Test match for the 2011 Springboks and his international coaching career, will haunt him for the rest of his life. He knows in his heart and mind that Bismarck du Plessis could have been the difference.

The 2011 RWC is now water under the bridge for the Springboks. Collectively we must move on. 

I was most impressed with Fourie du Preez’s comments on the match and the referee. He stressed the fact that it was the Springboks who lost the match and not the referee’s decisions that made them lose: A brave assessment by one of the more intelligent Springboks of recent years.

He is taking responsibility for the failure, which is the least the captain and the other senior Springboks could have done instead of blaming the referee.

Gary Boshoff is a former SARU player and current Afrikaans rugby commentator on SuperSport.

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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