Cape Town – A popular New Zealand scribe says the standard of refereeing in the southern hemisphere “is in crisis” with officials “allowing players to cheat”.
Mark Reason, who writes for New Zealand’s Stuff.co.nz website, took a swipe at his own countrymen in a hard-hitting column published over the weekend.
“The cheating in Super Rugby has reached epidemic proportions and it is making the game almost unwatchable. And sad to say New Zealand and Australian teams are comfortably the worst offenders,” Reason wrote.
He gave examples of the previous weekend’s Super Rugby action and his analysis was less than flattering for his compatriots.
“Last weekend all four New Zealand teams (the Chiefs were on a bye) routinely and repeatedly infringed whenever the opposition came close to the line. It was clearly coached cheating,” Reason noted.
He added that Super Rugby’s top brass should consider a ‘red zone’ where the referee is allowed to send a player off permanently for continued infringements close to his own tryline.
Reason was particularly scathing of New Zealand’s Glen Jackson, who refereed the Bulls v Highlanders game in Pretoria.
The Kiwi side won 29-28 after a last-gasp penalty from flyhalf Lima Sopoaga.
Reason argued: “Glen Jackson had an absolute disaster in South Africa. A referee I spoke to is still looking for the offside at the end of the game. But that is not to take into account everything that went before.
“To give the Highlanders the chance to win off the most marginal offside in a non-threatening part of the pitch was lamentable when you consider the end of the first half. The Bulls were hammering away at the line. Jackson Hemopo blatantly pulled down the lineout maul. The Bulls hammer on, the Highlanders stream up offside, nothing given. Even before that Jackson had failed to give the Highlanders tighthead a yellow card for repeated offences. Why?
“In the second half Lima Sopoaga twice infringed quite blatantly on his own line. On the first occasion he rushed up the side of a ruck to try to disrupt play. On the second occasion he lay on the ball so that the Bulls could not gain quick possession. He should not even have been on the pitch to kick the winning goal, but Jackson did not even give a penalty. Even the frostiest man of Otago would admit that the Bulls were absolutely dudded.”
Reason also criticised Kiwi referee Paul Williams’ handling of Blues v Jaguares match in Auckland.
“At the end of the half the Blues committed four consecutive penalty offences in added on time. But Williams had already penalised them for repeated infringing at the start of the half. So instead of escalating the punishment, he did nothing. And that is the weakness that sides rely on. They infringe early on, knowing the ref will give up.”
In his column, Reason continued to give examples where referees were lenient on New Zealand players.
The referees’ unwillingness to penalise players for standing off-side also got the Kiwi writer hot under the collar.
“That’s what the All Blacks do. They vicariously bully and cheat in the name of patriotism. But they are now in jeopardy. As we found out in the Lions series – and it cost the All Blacks the series – what they get away with in Super Rugby doesn’t fly with many northern hemisphere refs.”
South African referee Jaco Peyper, who refereed the Brumbies v Crusaders clash in Canberra, was also not spared by Reason.
He said Peyper’s refereeing “came close to bringing the game into disrepute”.
“He failed to yellow card the Brumbies blindside for a shoulder charge that could have broken Ryan Crotty’s collar bone. His refereeing of the offside line, both ways, was erratic. Referees have to give a loud and clear early message.
“But a Brumby who made a try-saving tackle, running back from a position 15 metres offside, was not even penalised. And Peyper penalised the Brumbies scrum early on for a knee on the ground, but failed to apply the consistent sanction to Owen Franks when he twice did the same thing. But the biggest scandal was the failure to send off Chance Peni for his grotesque and possibly career ending tackle on Israel Dagg.”