Tank Lanning

Boks score from referee blunder

2015-07-28 11:24
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)

Instead of moaning about the legality of the Richie McCaw try that sealed the deal for the All Blacks at Ellis Park on Saturday, perhaps Bok fans should be thanking referee Jerome Garces for not reducing the Boks to 14 men when Vincent Koch left the field with suspected broken ribs!

Yes indeed, such was the farce surrounding the enforced uncontested scrums, that Mr Garces either forgot, or did not know about, Law 3.5 (k) which suggests:

“When 23 players are nominated for a match... where uncontested scrums are ordered as a result of there being no suitably trained and experienced front row replacement for any reason, the team concerned shall not be entitled to replace the player whose departure caused uncontested scrums.”

So instead of being grumpy at having been robbed of the scrum at a key time in the match when the All Blacks were reduced to seven forwards given the yellow card to Sam Whitelock, perhaps Bok fans should just be grateful at not having been reduced to 14 men for the rest of the game?

But that was not the only things that Garces got wrong when making the call to “Go Granny”...

Yes, in a 23 player squad, there must be sufficient front row players on the bench who are suitably trained and experienced to replace all of the hooker, tighthead prop and loosehead prop on the first occasion that a replacement is required in each position.

But according the Law 3.5 (h) it is only when a team cannot provide enough “suitably trained” front row players that the match continues with uncontested scrums.

And given that Law 3.5 (d) states that a “suitably trained” and experienced front row forward may start the match in another position, the laws quite clearly make provision for a prop who has been trained to play on both sides of the scrum.

Trevor Nyakane has played both loosehead and tighthead prop for the Bulls at Super Rugby level, and thus, to my mind, quite clearly “suitably trained and experienced” enough to have taken over from Koch at tighthead prop when the latter left the field.

It was also not Garces’ call to make! Law 3.5 states that “It is not the responsibility of the referee to determine the suitability of trained front row replacements nor their availability, as this is a team responsibility.”

Should new skipper Schalk Burger have queried the call? Should one of the multiple Bok management staff have not queried the call? Should the Bok management have pointed out Nyakane’s ability to play both sides before the game?

Or have World Rugby, who have been notoriously (yet not unexpectedly) quiet on both the McCaw try and the uncontested scrums, introduced a brand new ruling less than two months before the World Cup, and chosen not to inform the public?

As it stands, though, and based on the existing laws, uncontested scrums should not have been implemented given Nyakane’s ability to play tighthead. So Garces erred on that count. But given that they were implemented, Garces then erred in allowing Nyakane onto the field.

What a terrible farce, and for it to happen in the most important game of the year to date is just infuriating. It is almost inevitable that a refereeing blunder or interpretation will influence the result of a key Rugby World Cup game later this year. How sad.

Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt.

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