On average a game of 80 minutes of Super 14 rugby, has just 34 minutes of playing time.
The rest of the 47 minutes is directly attributable to the referee and how he blows the game.
The standard of refereeing this 2010 Super 14 competition has gone from bloody awful to absolutely flawless. However, no team or coach is permitted to criticize the referee, so it is basically left to SANZAR to have this oversight and management of a system that has way too many variables.
In short there is a gag order out about any criticism for a referee by any player or coach and that leaves the ref beyond reproach without any real accountability. And that is not good for the game.
There has to be a degree of scrutineering of the refs every Monday by SANZAR that is made public, to vouch for the impartiality and fairness of the referee, who in turn is assisted by two Assistant referees on the touchline, plus a TMO.
Referees have to be publically graded and assessed, not to necessarily censure them publically, but definitely to educate the players, coaches and fans, as they are front and centre of the game and woeful decisions can cost the game millions of dollars.
It also removes any suspicion of bias if SANZAR established a score card of criteria, so that defuses any hotbed emotional outbursts.
Take this past weekends Super 14 games.
1) Pollock in Reds vs Stormers: 3/10. He wrongly awarded the Reds 2 penalties against Vermeulen and Louw which were converted into points. That swung the entire game around. Biased in favour of the Reds. At one stage the penalty count was 7-1. The late shoulder charge on Habana should have earned the Reds a yellow card and even though it was out in the open he still conferred with his linesman. It might well have been a penalty try.
2) Kaplan in W Force vs. Crusaders: 8/10.
He was steady and consistent and carried no bias.
3) Walsh in Waratahs vs Brumbies: 4/10.
He was definitely biased against the Brumbies and instead of awarding them a try, penalised the try scorer for a ‘double movement’. The modern accepted ruling is that even if you are tackled and held you can stretch and place the ball.
4) Jonker in Bulls vs Lions: 8/10.
He was consistent and fair and missed very little. His only questionable decision was when Vermaak kicked a Bull, in that he awarded only a penalty instead of a yellow card and penalty.
5) Lawrence in Sharks vs Blues: 4/10.
Quite obvious bias shown towards the Sharks. Twice when the Blues captain approached him with a penalty query he didn’t answer but advanced the penalty 10 metres for chirping. Once when two Sharks were lying on the Blues side blocking the ball the Blues all appealed and he awarded the penalty to the Sharks!
a) Specific, clear and vocal signals should be given by the ref indicating what the penalty was for plus the number of the infringing player.
b) The linesman should be the arbiter of ’straight’ lineout throws, leaving the ref to concentrate on other aspects. If a crooked throw happens the linesman would merely wave his flag in the direction of the offending side.
c) Refs were told two years ago to check crooked balls at scrum put in. Some scrummies are still throwing the ball under their locks’ feet without penalty. This could also be a linesman’s call.
I am not the only one who feels this way about this seasons refereeing and I would welcome receiving your comments and perspective on how refs could be made to perform better, to give us a better game of 40 minutes of actual rugby instead of the 34 minute offering we have now.