If rugby is to be more entertaining in 2010, the refs need a kick up the backside!
There has been a lot of talk recently about how the rules are ruining the spectacle and that there is too much kicking in the game. But in my mind it is less about the rules. It's about the interpretation, and much to do with the behaviour of the referees.
Players want consistency, they want clarity about where they stand, and what they can and can't do.
There is too much inconsistency from one referee to another, and too many grey areas. We have had it right at times, why do they go and mess with it?
As a South African rugby fan, I also have another message for IRB Referees' boss, Mr Paddy O'Brien. Cut the c#@p once and for all and stop discriminating against the South Africans. Ensure that there is one set of rules for everyone, and that no one gets special treatment.
I thought 2009 showed just how much the world hates South Africa. In the Super 14 Bakkies Botha got a three-week ban for striking, whilst Sione Lauaki tried to take Bryan Habana's head off and got let off on a technicality. Brett Sheehan produced one of the most dangerous tackles I've seen and didn't even get cited.
Why do the Aussies and Kiwis never seem to suffer the same consequences?
In the British and Irish Lions series in South Africa, Bakkies Botha gets 2 weeks for a legitimate tackle? Are you crazy? Whilst the Lions get away with any indiscretions they produced.
In the Tri-Nations, Matt Giteau takes out Fourie du Preez but we hear he's not a dangerous player. Never mind he wasn't even looking at the ball. Let's forgive him instead. Meanwhile Jaque Fourie gets a ban for a dangerous tackle on Ma'a Nonu that was borderline.
When the Southern Hemisphere teams toured the Northern Hemisphere at the end of 2009, Paddy O'Brien even apologised to the All Blacks for ref Stu Dickinson's performance after the All Blacks had played Italy.
Now O'Brien is a Kiwi, but this stinks of favouritism. Italy coach Nick Mallett believed his side should have been awarded a penalty try late in the game after camping on the All Blacks' line. Did O'Brien need to get involved?
Where was the apology when Paul Honiss let the Irish score against the Boks after he told John Smit to go talk to his side and let Ronan O'Gara sneakily score a try?
Where was the apology when Bakkies Botha was suspended for a legitimate tackle?
Where were the responses when Peter de Villiers sent numerous requests to Paddy O'Brien this year to have the rules clarified?
I hate to use the word "cheating," but all I want in 2010 is one set of rules and for referees and citing commissioners to allow the sides to compete fairly. It would allow the best/most deserving side to emerge victorious. And it can only help the Bulls and Boks to only have to compete against 15 on the field in 2010!