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Rugby Forum - Vol 2, Week 13
Rugby Forum - Vol 2, Week 13
(The week that was, a South African perspective)
03 May 2002
[SARF]
Rugby Forum is a weekly newsletter produced by rugbyforum.co.za, it is reposted here with their permission.
Be sure to check out the full Rugby Forum archive at www.rugbyforum.co.za

Volume 2, Week 13 Rugby Forum

Editors Note

Brilliant!    Rugby Forum’s clairvoyant power was proven beyond any doubt! In the previous issue I boldly declared that South Africa suffered “three losses and a defeat”! As the local teenagers would say, duh! But surprise surprise, what happened on Saturday? South African teams suffered the ignominy of yet another total shut out over the weekend in this disastrous of Super 12 seasons – this time, unquestionably there were “three losses and a defeat”!

The old muck about lies, damned lies and statistics are unfortunately true and never more so than in the Super 12 log, for SA it makes for dismal reading. This season will be remembered or rather forgotten for a host of things and with two matches remaining one wonders if:

·         The Bulls will win a match (They have won at least once every year since 1996)
·         The Bulls will concede more than 500 points (446 to date)
·         The Cats will win a home match (Won at least one every year to date)
·         The Sharks will win an away match. (Won an away match in every year to date)
·         The Stormers can beat the Cats (WP beat Transvaal in 1996)
·         Any South African team can leap above the Chiefs and avoid a quadruple wooden spoon.

Local derbies will be the feature of the next two weeks and in true South African style we can expect hard uncompromising affairs. Ironically teams feel they can throw name away against the big, bad Kiwis and slick, sophisticated Ausies but heaven forbid not against your own! One can expect loads of niggle with coveted Springbok places the only prize to play for, to jog the old memory, remember the Japie Mulder/De Wet Barry incident that caused so much outrage? Hopefully all four teams contrive to present their best in an otherwise wistful year, supporters need some hope for the international season.

The Crusaders march on with yet another semi-final place, their 4th in history (same as the Sharks!) and currently look like a good bet for the title. The champions and pre-season favourites, the Brumbies have suffered their 4th defeat in as many weeks. They were a brilliantly coached team under Eddie Jones but his departure, a few injuries and a losing run of three matches rattled even the champions. And with Highlanders’ skipper Taine Randell’s answer of “muscle” when questioned on how they managed to beat the men from ACT it has become clear that coaching and coaching experience count for a helluva lot at this level. Cannot say we are too sorry to see it happen, SA sides (and taxi drivers) have suffered enough at their hands!

The crocked Springboks are returning slowly but surely, Bob Skinstad, incumbent skipper made a successful return to contact rugby, a Vodacom Shield match against the Griffons does not qualify as a first class outing but according to all reports Bob played well. The other skipper, Andre Vos impressed with a magnificent display against the Crusaders, his early retirement may be about as premature as Bjorn Borg’s – he can still contribute loads to a test team. The young Joe van Niekerk also impressed with some good touches and with Mark Andrews and Andre Snyman back for the Sharks this weekend the injury situation looks far better. Pity about Fleck, Kempson and James – they will not win the race for fitness.

Some by the by news: The Heineken Cup is nearing its end and Leicester scored a narrow victory over Llanelli to join Munster in the final after their victory over Castres. Leicester has proved to be the dominant force in English and European rugby over the past few seasons, they benefited immensely from foreign coaches like Bob Dwyer and a host of foreign legends adding priceless experience to the local lads. Selborne Boome, a Springbok in 1999 will make a return to South African rugby and for a country under continuous siege of the mighty pound and euro an influx of ex-internationals will be like manna from heaven. The players may have chosen to leave their countries but like a mother we should welcome them back and utilize their added experiences to the benefit of local rugby. We will of course lose some players as been rumoured over the last few weeks.

This week, there is another fine array of letters from you the readers and I would like to thank everyone who took time out of their day to air their views. The referees are not out of trouble… but there is an interesting reply regarding their assessments and of course a host of comments from disgruntled rugby supporters. Today’s quotes center on the men in the center.

Support your teams at the park and don’t be shy to let me know who you think should be the best XXII to take on Wales this winter.

Lucas

lucas@rugbyforum.co.za


Visit www.rugbyforum.co.za for statistics, all the quotes and an archive of previous issues

 SARFU’s Crystal Ball by Desmond Organ

South Africa actively began it’s migration into the world of professional rugby at the end of the 1995 World Cup. Migration being the appropriate word to describe what has clearly been an arduous and complex journey. In the world of business, professionals talk of transitions as opposed to migrations. The failure to rapidly adapt to new ways of doing business results in stagnation.

It is with this in mind that one begs to ask the question, what is in SARFU’s crystal ball?
The appointment of the professional services firm Accenture was a bold if not somewhat predictable step. For it is this organization which is a key component of the reorganization of Williams in the world of Formula 1 motor racing. They are also responsible for the report on Super 12 and international rugby schedules for the SANZA nations.

I am sure that these credentials were part of the decision making process which led to the current investigation being undertaken in South African rugby. They are expected to unveil for the administrators a strategic plan to complete the third phase of a transformation that began in 1995.

The key components of this new strategy have been discussed in various forms in the media, but nobody has yet defined what the actual outcome will be. In all likelihood it will be a three dimensional approach focusing on economic strategy, organization restructuring and an implementation framework. The economic proposals will be based on sound business principles; as will the restructuring of the game and the implementation framework required.

I am tempted to be a devils advocate and comment that however sound the proposals, there is little likelihood South African rugby will be able to cope with the required re-organization. This is simply because the current people running the game lack several key competencies. This is not a case of sour grapes, the media has all but confirmed that there are not enough former rugby master minds involved in managing the game and there have been enough blunders administratively to doubt the professional ability of several of the management structure.

In the belief that miracles do happen from time to time, let’s have a closer look at the possible contents of the strategy document that Accenture will hand over to SA Rugby.

The document will be made up of three components: 

1. A business strategy to ensure the continued economic viability of the professional game
2. Performance indicators to manage the implementation of the strategy and to ensure that it is on track financially
3. An implementation framework to ensure the rapid implementation of several initiatives and the gradual implementation of others.

Business Strategy
The business strategy will probably be made up of the following economic principles or value levers, according to consultant speak.

a) The centralization of the Springbok brand
b) The reorganization of the current domestic competitions
c) A management transformation strategy according to government requirements.

The centralization of the Springbok brand is the most obvious initiative required for future financial success, an indicator of this is the recent removal of the Springbok Supporters club leadership and the economic success achieved by its London affiliate. It appears as if the London branch will be allowed to continue, largely because it guarantees income. The strategy of offering one year renewable franchises was in retrospect a bold business decision. It allowed SARFU to use rugby fans and entrepreneurs to complete the market assessment of the initiative, with little or no cost to the organization.

It did however expose the risk of losing control of the Springbok brand; several events in the United States and New Zealand were warnings that the earning potential of the brand should be managed centrally. The Accenture recommendation will be for the brand to remain under the central control of SARFU. The revenue generating possibilities of the brand will be managed like any professional football team. All activities relating to the brand must be under the direct control of the organization. Several less valuable components may be outsourced to vendors, but the most valuable will remain in-house. The most valuable include; television rights, sponsorship, merchnandise and test matches.

The reorganization of the domestic game will involve the scrapping of the Vodacom Cup and the re-establishment of a viable club competition. There will also be a new system of contracting the top players in the country at a central level. The latter is not something new because it has been effectively implemented in New Zealand. When the Kiwis wake up and smell the roses we will see a fourth Super 12 team from South Africa.

The Vodacom Cup will be scrapped because not only is it not a viable return on investment, but it has fulfilled its role of developing several players of colour, capable of representing South Africa at the National level. It will never fulfill the government requirement of transformation across the board. It is played at the same time as the Super 12 and gate revenues in obscure locations are not footing the operating costs. 

A club structure professionally managed and funded by a combination of Springbok funds and provincial funds will be the result. The bulk of the funding for areas such as Border, Eastern Province and Boland will come from the national body. Sponsors will be encouraged to sponsor locally to develop the pool of rugby players supporting the provincial game. The opportunity to earn money to play should double the number of school boys continuing to play the game. The costs of operating the scheme will be much cheaper than the costs of the Vodacom Cup.

The recommendation will also include a proposal to sponsor rugby at the school level, quotas at this level will destroy the traditional values of the game; the demographics of the country will take care of the numbers. Encouraging people to play and funding the infrastructure is what is required. 

Such an approach will establish a supply chain from school boy to national level and will ensure that there are funds and profitability across the entire spectrum. It will also be a lot more streamlined than the current structure.

The future format of the domestic game will see a club championship played early in the year, followed by the Currie Cup and the Super 12.

The management transformation strategy will require the demographics of the country to be visible across the board. The implementation of the recommended domestic restructuring will take care of this over time. What is needed is the assessment of the current leadership and the identification of suitable talent which is being denied by the “old boys club”. Several metrics will be proposed and I believe that if the game is transformed these will become quick hits and the overall transformation will occur seamlessly as the game transforms itself. 

Performance Indicators
The performance indicators will address all aspects of the professional game, specifically:

a) A framework for managing the profitability of the game
b) A reporting structure from national to local levels.

The recommended proposal will include the concept of a “Balanced Scorecard”, this is a business strategy for managing the major components of a business initiative and it is used to make sure that all the components of the strategy are measured and achieved in a balanced fashion.
It will probably comprise four key quadrants, budget, schedule, people and quality.
This will hopefully enable the implementers of the various initiatives to manage the implementation successfully.

A new reporting structure will be required to ensure that the profitable and non profitable components of the game are managed accordingly. Separate profit and loss statements will be required at all levels of the game. Each initiative must be identified as a cost or as an investment and managed appropriately. There will also need to be an effective performance management framework established for the resources employed. 

Implementation Framework
This will comprise a combination of “quick hits” and long term initiatives.

a) Short term profitability
b) Resources
c) Staged approach

The initiatives will need to ensure the profitability of the game; this is quite simple because it is already profitable. The removal of the Vodacom Cup will open up a large set of funds to strengthen the national game through the contracting of new players and provide for the funds to re-establish the club game. In short the costs of implementing the structure should also shorten the supply chain and develop the necessary resources.

The identification of suitable resources will be critical for all aspects. There needs to be an abandonment of the duplication of resources that are not adding value. There is clearly a duplication of certain roles in SARFU and SA Rugby (PTY) Ltd. The removal of these will free up additional funds.

Professional resources must be identified to distinguish between the financial aspects of the game and the actual game itself. There are enough former rugby players with successful business backgrounds to provide insight into the game. They must complement those resources with specific business skills.

Outside the number crunching, there needs to be an investment in coaches and administrators at the local level. This is the means to transform the demographics of the game across the board.

The recommendations will include a phased approach with a core and regional implementation teams. This will be the most difficult to achieve because of the entrenched positions of provincial leadership. The major recommendation will be the removal of dual reporting at the provincial and national level. Key positions must serve the national interest. This is needed to avoid a conflict of interests. In addition the make up of the implementation teams will need to be professionally managed with the right combination of business and rugby skills.

I have no doubt that the proposals will be economically sound, the biggest challenge will be the implementation and this is typically where 75 % of all business initiatives fail.

des@rugbyforum.co.za


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Playing for Higher Honours by Mark Foster

Hands up those South African rugby supporters who’s lost interest in this year’s Super 12 competition, thought so… just about everybody. The 2002 edition is now officially closed for us and we should look upon the remaining games as a prolonged trial period for Springbok team selection against Wales. The real contenders are involved in an exciting, closely fought competition – one suspect the original reason for the creation there of.

The local derbies are always something to look forward to; it resembles something of the old tension and atmosphere of the pre-nineties Currie Cup matches. It was only us then – nobody else mattered. In the past few years there’s been the agonizing habit of shooting our own teams in the foot when teams like the Bulls spoiled home semi-finals for the high riding team. Sigh… those were the days! The Bulls take on the Sharks and the Cats are entertaining the Stormers, with nothing riding on it but higher honour.

The goings on over the water will be very interesting as there are numerous teams in position to make the final 4, the only team really out of it is the Chiefs. The Crusaders have easily qualified with their nine victories all be the last two by the skin of their chinny chin chins, regardless, a good team and this one is, tend to win the close games. 

The rest of the pack has some serious work to do over the next two weekends and none more so than the Waratahs, for long the Australian stepchildren in the competition their match against the Reds will be a crucial encounter for both teams. The Reds, simply must win and with the high stakes on offer it should be a cracking match between two varied styles; the Waratahs have played a magnificent brand of attacking football, very much reminiscent of Bob Dwyer’s brilliant Australian sides of the early nineties where as the Reds began that way but injuries to crucial members have curtailed their attacking instinct. Latham, as shown against the Sharks is a splendid attacking fullback and he could once again prove to be the difference.

The other match of grave importance is the Blues/Highlanders clash, both are confident after excellent victories over the weekend. The Blues’ 28 points might just not be enough for qualification; they need a victory with a bonus point for 5 tries but against Taine Randell’s men it will be difficult especially with their defensive record (2nd best in the comp). Laurie Mains will be the first coach to steer his team into three consecutive semi-finals (all be it with two different teams) since the glory years of Graham Henry, if they win this one.

The other two matches see the luckless Hurricanes take on the Crusaders and strange enough, this might be the one match the ‘Saders could lose this year, the Hurricanes need 5 points nothing less will do. The Brumbies are visiting New Zealand and although the Chiefs lack the firepower they might run the champions close and for the Brumbies to ensure qualification they need the full compliment.

All in all a good weekend of rugby to look forward to, the “Saffies” will give each other a good belting - there will be niggle, you can bet on it and the real rugby teams will be play for the higher honour of being Super 12 champions.

mark@rugbyforum.co.za


Super 12 Log

Team

Played Won Won
Home
Won
Away
Lost Lost
Home
Lost 
Away
Points
For
Points
Against
Tries
For
Tries
Against
Bonus
Points
Points
Crusaders 9 9 5 4 0 0 0 325 225 34 24 5 41
Waratahs 9 8 5 3 1 0 1 294 157 36 16 6 38
Reds 9 6 4 2 3 1 2 279 223 31 23 6 30
Highlanders 9 6 3 3 3 1 2 269 168 29 17 5 29
                           
Blues 9 6 4 2 3 0 3 280 183 33 20 4 28
Brumbies 9 5 3 2 4 2 2 286 190 34 17 8 28
Hurricanes 9 5 3 2 4 1 3 192 225 19 25 3 23
Chiefs 9 3 1 2 6 3 3 264 279 31 33 7 19
Stormers 9 3 1 2 6 3 3 243 262  26 26 6 18
Sharks 9 2 2 0 7 3 4 160 288 18 31 3 11
Cats 9 1 0 1 8 4 4 192  333 19 42 2 6
Bulls 9 0 0 0 9 5 4 195 446 26 62 2 2

Rugby Forum Super 12 XV

Rugby Forum Springbok XV

1. Bill Young (Brumbies)
2. Jeremy Paul (Brumbies)
3. Kees Meeuws (Blues)
4. Justin Harrison (Brumbies)
5. Chris Jack (Crusaders)
6. Richard McCaw (Crusaders)
7. Owen Finnegan (Brumbies)
8. Andre Vos (Cats)
9. Johannes Conradie (Stormers)
10. Duncan McRae (Waratahs)
11. Pieter Rossouw (Stormers)
12. Paul Steinmetz (Highlanders)
13. Stirling Mortlock (Brumbies)
14. Roger Randle (Chiefs)
15. Chris Latham (Reds)

1. Daan Human (Stormers)
2. John Smit (Sharks)
3. Faan Rautenbach (Stormers)
4. Albert van den Bergh (Sharks)
5. Hottie Louw (Stormers)
6. Corné Krige (Stormers)
7. A.J. Venter (Sharks)
8. Andre Vos (Cats)
9. Johannes Conradie (Stormers)
10. Andre Pretorius (Cats)
11. Pieter Rossouw (Stormers)
12. De Wet Barry (Stormers)
13. Ettienne Botha (Bulls)
14. Breyten Paulse (Stormers)
15. Percy Montgomery (Stormers)

Quotes
After awarding a try in the very first test match, Scotland vs. England in 1871 - When a referee is in doubt, I think he is justified in deciding against the side that makes the most noise.      A.H. Almond

I feel two teams are like two chemicals and the referee is the catalyst. If you get a good reaction, you get a good product.    Neil Midgeley

Refereeing is a balance between tolerance and neo-fascism - I tend to lean towards the latter.    David Elleray

Players and spectators at all levels can enjoy sport better if they totally accept two simple rules:
Rule 1:  The referee is always right.
Rule 2:  In the event of the referee being obviously wrong, Rule 1 applies.
Peter Corrigan


Letters to the Editor (letters@rugbyforum.co.za)
Dear Ed

In response to your questions dated 24 April.

What do assessors look at in every match, are there fixed criteria?

Referees are assessed on different criteria: 
Technical ability, which is knowledge of the laws.
Physical ability, which entails fitness and positioning.
Mental ability’ i.e. to handle the pressure on and off the field.

Are these assessors present at every match and are they neutrals?

There are assessors present at every provincial match and higher up. There are always neutral assessors at test matches. 

Do referees receive a “report card” of their performances?

Referees receive immediate verbal feedback. Also a written report and video footage. Just to give an example of the detailed assessment, it includes number of scrums reset, collapsed, early engagement, etc. 

What can teams do if they “suspect” that a referee is “biased”?

I am not sure I understand this question. If a coach or management is unhappy about a referee’s performance, they can always contact someone like Freek Burger at SARFU.

I hope this clears up some of the misunderstandings. It is impossible for me to duplicate these assessment forms for you via e-mail and one only really appreciates them once you have done an assessment course. (something I would like to do in the future)

Regards

Jenny Bentel

Dear Ed

I am quite glad about Jenny Bentel's letter in last week's issue... somebody had to cover for the poor referees!

Surprise, surprise! I, too, was once a referee! In the early 1980's, after a second serious knee injury (both sustained after tackles on me), I was forced to quit playing. Desiring to still be part of the game I took up refereeing and spent a number of years refereeing "koshuis-rugby" (inter-residence matches) at Stellenbosch University. I finally had to give that up when part-time study while doing my articles took up all of my time. Anyway, I am just mentioning it to clarify that I am quite sympathetic towards referees in general and am quite cognisant of their points of view and difficult circumstances.

I agree that referees are a most important part of the game and they sometimes have to perform under unwarranted duress. I also agree that South African supporters (in general) tends to be, as Jenny puts it, "moaners" and too often blame the referee when their teams aren't performing well. For the record, I also believe that André Watson, Tappe Henning and Jonathan Kaplan are amongst the finest in the world. For that matter, I even have a high opinion of some of the Australasian referees, such as Scott Young and Paddy O'Brien.

So let's be very clear on one thing: I did not criticise referees in general. I pointed out that certain referees - week after week and year after year - are clearly biased when it comes to South African teams in the international arena. Anyone can see who they are. And I am not grabbing this out of the air, the facts support this! To mention just two:

The infamous 1999 e-mail that was circulated to Australasian referees, inciting them "to teach the Japies a lesson". Can that have any other meaning than "be prejudiced against their players"? 

De Wet Barry was yellow-carded when he tackled a player as he was scoring a try, in an attemp to dislodge the ball. You could hear the ref's words: "I tell you... you connected with your hand to his head". Watch the incident again: If he connected at all (which is not clear from the video), it was surely an accident (that much IS clear from the video). Two weeks later, as Hendrik Gerber was scoring a try, a New Zealand player (I think it was Doug Howlett of the Blues) hit the ball with his fist as hard as he could. At that moment the ball was adjacent to Gerber's face. Had the player made the slightest miscalculation, Gerber's jaw could have been broken. That particular player was not even spoken to. And yes, it was the same referee. My point is: As the player concerned in the first incident was a South African, that particular referee had the preconceived idea that Barry must be some kind of miscreant up to his usual mischief. As the player involved in the second incident was a "cousin" from across the Tasman, any mishap would have been purely due to a bona fide accident, in that ref's mind.

In my letter I also mentioned that those particular referees may not necessarily be wittingly prejudiced against South African teams. It may be more a case of being biased inadvertently, due to their preconceptions about either South Africans or Africa as a whole. In the same fashion as Ms Jenny Bentel has (had?) about "the likes of Mr. Colin van Rensburg"!

COLIN VAN RENSBURG


Dear Ed,

In reaction to Jenny the ref, I wish to forward the following piece of information.

Could our Jenny the ref please explain to us, the confused shareholders of the game (paying our TV subscriptions and gate money) the e-mail of March 1999 send by Mark Lawrence Kiwi Referee chairman from NZRFU to his Australian counterpart in which the following was mentioned: "Keep the Japies in the dark with the rule changes and lets teach them a lesson"? Please explain this so we could understand and then stop whinging. In this same e-mail there was very uncalled remarks made by Lawrence towards Freek Burger the SA ref. Lawrence later apologised to Freek.

With this e-mail in mind, let me refresh our Jenny of the following;

WAYNE ERICKSON from Aus;
Before this e-mail not one SA team could win a kiwi team with him in charge. After the e-mail the SA teams success rate shot up to 56% with him in charge?

ANDREW COLE from Aus;
Before this e-mail SA teams success rate was 58% with him in charge. After the e-mail the SA teams success rate shot up to 83% with him in charge?

STUART DICKINSON from Aus;
Before this e-mail SA teams success rate was 22% with him in charge. After the e-mail the SA teams success rate shot up to 31% with him in charge?

PADDY O' BRIEN from NZ;
Before this e-mail SA teams success rate was 40% with him in charge. After the e-mail the SA teams success rate shot up to 50% with him in charge?

With these stats in mind it seems the improvement of results before and after the March 1999 e-mail had "something" to do with the refs? 

I can give our Jenny ref heaps more very interesting stats, but for the time-being I wish him/her to comment to us the poor confused supporters of SA teams to explain. No offence. Just wish to try and clear up the confusion.

FRANS.

Dear Ed,

I would just like to reply to your comments about "cheating ref's". You and so many other have the spectator's complaints completely wrong! We are sick and tired of the gullible attitude of rugby-officials, coaches, managers, and media-people towards the actions of referee's toward SA teams! 

This unwarranted "nice-guys" attitude towards people like P. Marshall, W. Erickson and a few others must come to an end, and SA rugby coaches and managers must start taking responsibility for their players, and what's happening to them on the playing field. We DO know most of the rules. and we CAN see that these rules, no matter how complicated the rules have become, are not being applied the same way for SA teams (Saturday's penalty try was a clear proof of this.), as for their opponents. And don't try to tell us that SA teams do not listen to the referee. Their opponents give very little heed to a referee when it comes to stop contesting for the ball in ruck-situations( how intelligent must a ref. be to interpret this rule?), they DO NOT release the ball IMMEDIATELY as the rules prescribe, and they go into lengthy discussions when they disagree about decisions, with referee's, while SA players are being given rude and off the cuff reproaches by these officials.

In short, my friend, we are not claiming that ref's are applying the rules of rugby incorrectly, we are claiming that their application of the rules allows opponents to play a "infringement-riddled" game, while the other team are not allowed the same benefits. Do you really believe that the Sharks on Saturday lost a game which they had in their pockets because they all of a sudden lost their discipline in the second half? And by the way, this criticism is as applicable to the "blind" and negligent lines-men as well! Go study the tapes of a number of these games, and you will come up with the same resolution.

Chris Booysen


Dear Ed,

The issue of refereeing is very much a hot topic right now, and I would like to add my 2c worth. As an ardent supporter of rugby, I was fortunate enough to watch the Sharks last week (sad they lost), and watched it again on tape on Sunday. The number of clearly poor decisions made was inexcusable, and even at club level would not be acceptable. 

My gripe is the issue of "Interpretations". 
When does a punch become a punch, not "It depends where/how hard you hit him?"
When is the ball allowed to bounce in front of the halfway line from the kick-off or not. 
When is the scrum turned 90? How long is advantage?
When is a lineout thrown straight or crooked?
All these things are interpreted differently by different refs.

There are no clear rules for a player, and the team must get to grips not only with the opposition tactics, but also on what "rules" the ref allows to be abused, infringed or otherwise.

It has become patently obvious that this has become a problem, and the sooner 57 old farts sort this out, the better. Rugby is becoming spoiled by the ineptitude of a few omnipotent, arrogant, pedantic fools (Peter Mashall leaps to mind!) while the decent refs are being dragged down by the whole anti-ref sentiment.

I read the letter from Jenny Bentel . Many of us are sympathetic, but it is a few refs who are spoiling the game for the other refs, for the fans and for the sport itself. We need a rethink on the critting of refs, as well as actions against those who don't have the ability to referee at Super 12 level.

Cheers
Mike


Dear Ed,

I must commend you on your excellent forum publication, it is generally superior to anything I have seen on the NZ and Australian web sites.

It's interesting to hear the complaints about the refereeing, in my opinion most of the referees seem quite unbiased except for Paddy O'Brien who definitely seems to go in with a pre-conception of which team will win and referees accordingly.

From what I can see the problem lies with the fact that different referees emphasise different aspects and crack down on certain things.

In the Waratahs vs. Brumbies game Andy Turner cracked down on forward passes as he has in the past, it is up to the teams to adapt to the interpretations of that referee. Smart teams will get penalised in the first half for a type of infringement, have a talk about it at half time and then not get penalised nearly that much for those infringements in the second half.

It is the failure to adapt which results in the high penalty count.

The other factor is that some teams cannot cope with a fast game and deliberately infringe to slow the game down.

You can't really do much more about the refereeing except have neutral referees. Referees are only human and they do have to make hundreds of one-field calls a game.

What I would like to see is neutral video referees, their job is much simpler, and yet it is obvious to everyone outside South Africa that SA TMO's are biased. I was a neutral observer of the SA vs. England games two years ago and was astounded by the antics of Mark Lawrence. England were robbed of a 2-0 series whitewash. The part that Mark Lawrence played in that series was acknowledged by him being awarded "referee of the year" or some such by the SA rugby union at the end of the year.

This has flowed on into the S12 games. Disturbingly, the Australian TMO's have started to follow this trend and so until we have neutral TMO's the NZ TMO's should be encouraged to be totally one-eyed towards the NZ teams in order to "level the playing field" as it were.

Vinesh


Hi Lucas

Here are some interesting facts. The four SA teams have now played a combined 32 matches against the eight overseas teams in this years Super 12 and have only won a dismal four matches against these teams which represents a shocking winning percentage of 12.5%. Of these four wins, three where at home (Sharks 2 and Stormers 1) and a solitary single win away by the Stormers which was against the Chiefs, now the fifth placed side in the competition. The top side the Crusaders have been unbeaten in nine games, the Bulls have been beaten in nine games. The total combined points of the four SA teams is less than the points achieved by the top team and the odds are strongly in favour of all four SA sides ending up occupying the last four positions on the log, a first in the history of the competition. 

Some of the losses at home against overseas teams have been by very narrow margins, but then as Naas puts it 'a win is a win' and then again the overseas teams have fared far better when touring. 

So where to now? Well the question has to be asked whether the Super 12 competition is on it's way to becoming an Australasia only competition as the SA sides are currently surely, diluting the competition. Maybe the SA sides will remain in the competition only for financial reasons i.e. sponsorships and television revenues and they surely not attracting the crowds at home matches as they use to.

The reasons or more like excuses given for the poor performances of unjust refereeing against the SA sides and injured Springbok players are absolutely pathetic and very short sighted. The poor performances is a symptom of far greater problems which have been effecting the game in this country for some time now. These problems range from SARFU's poor administration and puppet to the Minister of Sport, to the structure of the game at all levels, to political interference, to coaches and players (particular to on field discipline), and so on. Based on the Springboks performance of last year, I do not believe that by having all of them available in this years Super 12 would have made much difference, as those that did play, few really performed. Why is it that both Australia and New Zealand had the majority of their international players available and fit for the Super 12 and SA not? Makes one think.

As for the upcoming Try Nations it is difficult to try and be optimistic. The rot is well entrenched in SA rugby, however SA rugby now shares this rot with many other team sports in South Africa. The only way to instill pride in SA sport is through individual sports, however most these sports still suck the hind tit to team sports.

Regards
Schultzy
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Look on the bright side this week Lucas, two SA teams are likely to win!
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