Poor calls a costly affair

2010-04-29 09:11

JJ Harmse

So Matt Giteau was correct in saying that referee Steve Walsh ruined his side’s chances against the Waratahs (and possibly their Super 14 campaign as well), but was wrong to say it out loud?


The fact that the gifted player was fined for speaking his mind is a pity.

Especially after the Brumbies officially complained about the way Walsh handled the match. They asked for him to be removed from their game this weekend and that wish was granted. Giteau was the voice behind the reason for the request and he only said what everybody in Canberra felt and thought.

So he is bringing the game in disrepute, but the Brumbies officials, who asked for Walsh to be removed, did not? Nor did the officials who decided that Walsh should indeed step down?

For many years referees were deemed untouchable. There was no clear cut show of discipline towards their own from the refereeing officialdom and often nothing seemed to happen when a referee had a particularly bad day at the office.

A lot of that has changed this year, with André Watson and Lyndon Bray in particular fronting up when their officials screwed up.

On a number of occasions this season, a referee has been downgraded, removed and disciplined, with the action being made public. The earth did not stop moving. No one cried in disgust and walked away from the game. So why did it take so long then?

Unfortunately Giteau’s fine is again going back to the bad old days. He is making a fine living as a rugby player and Walsh's refereeing certainly had an impact on the game and the final result. If the Brumbies make the semi-finals, there will no doubt be some financial rewards to the squad. It works like that in all the top sporting codes.

So if the Walsh call on Adam Ashley-Cooper’s "double move" proves to be the difference between Giteau earning some extra cash or not, why is he not allowed to say something about it?

I personally felt that the Brumbies messed up their own campaign when they lost to the Hurricanes a couple of weeks back, so to prove that Walsh is the reason for Giteau being financially worse would be difficult to prove.

A similar scenario happened in Potchefstroom a while ago.

The Pumas lost to the Leopards and also missed out on the quarter-finals of the Vodacom Cup by a points-differential of four to, coincidentally, the Leopards. In other words, if the Pumas scored two more points against the Leopards they would have gone through to the quarters.

What happened there was that a successful dropped goal by the Pumas was ruled ineligible after a touch judge flagged a Pumas player in a previous movement. The referee had little option but to follow the advice of his colleague and cancel the drop goal and award a penalty to the Leopards.

The Pumas took the video evidence of the incident to Watson’s department, who in turn admitted the touch judge, sorry, assistant referee, made a mistake.

The Pumas now have the apology in written form, but what to do with it?

There is no chance of a replay and they will look back at this Vodacom Cup campaign as a failed one.

Unfortunately for them, a sponsor was lined up, with qualification for the quarter-finals as one of the conditions. You may not be aware that SA Rugby recently made a loan to the Witbank outfit due to their financial predicament. A sponsor would have been manna from heaven.

But they lost out a possible sponsorship because they missed out on a quarter-final spot due to a wrong call from an assistant referee.

Such are the consequences of poor decisions by officials.

No wonder Giteau was so upset with Walsh.

Early in the year, during a preview of the Super 14, I mentioned the lack of quality referees from Down Under and how they could possibly influence the outcome of the tournament.

The fact that a couple of them have been stood down proves that point.

The reality of the Super 14 is that there are always going to be some bad weekends, especially early in the competition when the top four or five referees are involved with Six Nations duties.

We have to respect the referee’s decision and trust their bosses to do their work. Watson and Bray have shown some bravery and courage in this regard this year.

They will not always admit it, but they face a huge problem, especially in New Zealand and Australia, to bring referees of quality through the system. Unwarranted criticism is not going to help prospective referees line up for the job.

Yet, despite this, why is there a feeling then that Giteau’s financial penalty was awarded to the wrong person?

Read JJ every Sunday in Rapport.

Disclaimer: 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.


  • William Shakespeare - 2010-04-29 09:45

    Stunning article. A writer of this calibre and with a mind as formidable as his must by default be a supporter of the Blue Bulls. Although his writing is so objective that we would never know...

  • William Shakespeare - 2010-04-29 09:53

    Jokes aside, this article is definitive. Let's hope it can be the catalyst for change. I hope that it gets read far and wide. JJ... I tip my hat to you.

  • Simms - 2010-04-29 10:12

    Great article JJ...

  • Phil - 2010-04-29 10:35

    Alan Hewson cost the Boks a series win in NZ in the "flour bomb" series so to hell with Giteau and his whinging

  • chris - 2010-04-29 14:37

    good article, the sharks had the same with a couple of games in the start of s14 by bad refing.they should of been in the top 4,

  • JJ huh - 2010-04-29 15:11

    Look I am the first to admit when a ref screws up I and angry. But the ref is also only human and ,like the players that knocked the ball with a open try line, they will make mistakes. What is stupid is this busness of non-neutral refs. And if a guy was bad then demote him. But you can't say the ref cost you a season because lots of mistakes happens in games. Hey JJ funny that the Bulls this season haven't really had bad calls against them. Luck of the draw or money in the drawer??

  • Se7en - 2010-04-29 16:37

    Well said JJ....I agree that refs are only human for making mistakes, but just as players are held accountable for their mistakes so should referees. Nobody is going to fine a referee for giving a player a red card. And this is yet another point in favour of maybe bringing a little more technology into rugby? At the moment a TMO is only called on by a referee if he deems fit. Why not have a same 3 referal system like the UDRS in cricket? Granted it might have one or two kinks to iron out in the beginning, but if it can prevent the financial losses caused to clubs due to referee error then why not?

  • Fanie - 2010-04-30 08:27

    It's funny that a Bulls supporter would write this article after the same mr Walsh gifted the Bulls a Super 14 victory in 2007. You should appreciate bad refereeing, it helps the Bulls more often than not.

  • Bobsnotmyuncle - 2010-04-30 13:09

    JJ, if we allow players and coaches to openly crit referees in public there is a danger that rugger will become like football with constant whining / blaming the ref when your team loses. And what a shame that would be. It does not matter whether he is right or not (and opinion is divided here). No doubt Giteau's teams have been on the other side of poor refereeing before. The same can be said for all teams. There are channels for complaints about referees and they should be used. As we have seen this year the refs in question are being disciplined, which is a great change from prior years. Giteau needs to look at his team and his own performances (mediocre) if he wants to know why they are not in line for the playoffs.

  • Blouste-Blou - 2010-05-05 09:45

    JJ ek stem. Ek het ook gewonder of jy nie dalk lus was om te skryf oor beserings van die verskillende spanne nie. Ek is seker sommige spanne bestuur hulle spelers beter, en het beter kondisionering, wat dan weer wys in hoe hulle spelers deur die seisoen minder seer kry. Dit moet ook 'n geweldige finansiële uitwerking as gevolg hê.

  • Bloubus - 2010-05-14 10:39

    Funny JJ...S14 final 2007, Currie Cup final 2009, Vodacom Cup final 2008...all games won by the bulls through dubious calls....

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