Johannesburg - Shortly before leaving for New Zealand, Lions coach Swys de Bruin raised the old spectre of New Zealand teams getting away with murder by officials ahead of Saturday’s Super Rugby final and wants there to be equilibrium when it comes to the officiating in the showpiece match of the season.
The Lions know they are up against the odds having to travel halfway across the world for the one-off game, but the decision by SANZAAR to appoint a neutral referee before the finalists were even known already raised eyebrows in some quarters last week, according to the supersport.com website.
After last year’s complaints from New Zealand when Jaco Peyper was appointed, SANZAAR decided to appoint Australian Angus Gardner as the neutral official for the final, but then inexplicably decided to keep two New Zealand Assistant referees for the game, something that concerns De Bruin all too well.
A fairer appointment would have been to keep Jaco Peyper, who refereed in Christchurch last weekend on the flag for the final, thereby giving the governing body an appointment of an Australian referee, and South African and New Zealand Assistant referees. SANZAAR appointed New Zealanders Glen Jackson and Nic Berry as the assistant referees while Shane McDermott will be the TMO. All three are New Zealanders.
Given the uphill battle that the Lions already face, De Bruin is especially concerned at how the Crusaders rush defence is allowed to creep onto the attacking team and as a team that enjoys space, he wants the offside line ruled to the letter of the law. The Crusaders have been given a lot of leeway throughout the season in their linespeed, and have conceded the least tries in the competition as a result.
“They conceded some tries but they still are No 1. One thing we have to remember it is at their home ground. We will have a good meeting with the refs before the time and offside lines apply for both sides. They can’t, because they are champions and people think they are good, get away with certain stuff. And I will make sure we meet with the refs about that,” De Bruin said.
“Because going through their clips - and you guys know me, I speak from the heart - there is a lot of things they get away with, more than other teams get away with. Like the offside line, like the hit on the left hand-side on the loosehead, stuff like that. So I will have that talk like that to them. We need a fair deal, all we ask is a fair deal and I hope we will get it.”
De Bruin said the Lions are a side that like to play positively and attack and believe if the playing field is level, they will have a chance in Christchurch.
“It’s a modern trend to rush like that, as long as you do it within the law it is fine, because then there are ways around it. There is always spaces available. You can’t rush or kill all the space all the time. It makes it tougher on the team that loves attack but what we do need is that space to attack, a team like us, so I will make sure we have those talks and we have that space,” he added.
The Lions coach said he was surprised that SANZAAR had named Gardner, who had a torrid time in the test series in June when a red card he awarded was rescinded afterwards in the New Zealand-France game, before the finalists had been announced.
“Yes a bit, it looks like there is a change in the system. I was hoping for a South African AR (Assistant Referee) at least but you know. So I don’t want to say too much about that, but it looks like there was a change in system, but enough said.”
And pressed on that matter, he said the concern was more the assistant referees, who are responsible for patrolling the offside lines. If they allow leeway on the rush defence creeping up too soon, it will make it impossible for the Lions to launch any attack. De Bruin pointed to examples of where this happened in Saturday’s semi-final between the Crusaders and Hurricanes.
“Exactly, we will address that. It is a concern. I don’t really want to talk about it, but you guys asked it so I have to answer it. We are not looking at that as a team, we are looking at the positives. But it is things that I have to address and make sure. There is a reason why there are 10 metres at a scrum, I looked at TJ Perenara when he touched that ball they are already five metres away, it can’t be. They have to be 10 until the ball is out. Those are the little things that we will address.”
The Lions arrive in New Zealand on Tuesday night. They will name their team on Thursday for the final on Saturday.
Kick-off is at 09:35 SA time.
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