Jonathan Kaplan (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Former South African Test referee Jonathan Kaplan has sympathised with Craig Joubert, who has copped heavy criticism for his handling of Sunday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final between Australia and Scotland at Twickenham.
READ: World Rugby confirms Joubert was wrong
Joubert's decision to award Australia a match-winning penalty for off-sides in the 79th minute gave the Wallabies a narrow 35-34 victory.
World Rugby on Monday night released a statement confirming that Joubert’s decision was wrong and that he should have awarded a scrum to Australia instead.
Kaplan commented on the incident via his website, www.ratetheref.co.za.
Kaplan believes the decision to award the penalty would remain a point of debate depending on how one viewed the incident in question, but did question why Joubert opted to award a penalty if it wasn’t ‘clear and obvious’.
“Joubert blew for Scottish prop Jon Welsh being off-side ahead of the last ‘Scotsman’ to play the ball, Josh Strauss. What happened between these two acts is what seems to have incensed a large portion of the Scottish rugby public and perhaps the neutrals looking for the upset,” Kaplan wrote.
“If the ball touches a player (Nick Phipps) and he doesn’t play it, it is not enough for the sanction of a penalty to change. And so, this whole review revolves around whether you think Phipps intentionally played/touched the ball, when trying to catch it, or whether it merely bounced off him.
“This is the crux of the matter. Did Phipps get a hand to the ball, or did he get a finger on it? There are people on both sides of the fence, and those still sitting on that fence. This is not a luxury that Joubert had at his disposal. He had to make a decision in real time. It is not an easy decision, even in slomo."
However, Kaplan suggested Joubert should have erred on the side of caution if he was in doubt.
“The only thing I will say is that generally referees are told to only to only blow for the clear and obvious and in this particular case I would hazard a guess that there could have been doubt.”
Kaplan was reluctant to speculate on why Joubert hurried from the field at the final whistle, but did admit that the decision to yellow-card Scotland wing Sean Maitland early in the second half for a deliberate knock-on was ‘harsh’.