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Claims URC referees are neutering South African scrum advantage

By Warren Fortune
The Munster and DHL Stormers packs during a scrum in the United Rugby Championship match between Munster and DHL Stormers at Thomond Park in Limerick. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Tappe Henning has his work cut out for him as the debate around refereeing interpretations continues to pop up ahead of matchdays.

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Sharks coach Sean Everitt and Stormers coach John Dobson are both in agreement that their teams are not getting rewarded for their power game when a Northern Hemisphere referee is in charge.

The Stormers camp were quite vocal about it after their narrow 17-19 loss to Connacht in Galway, where they dominated their opponents with a powerful maul.

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Everitt believes the issue needs to be addressed but also agreed that South African teams need to try and adapt to the different interpretations they are encountering in the tournament.

“We have regular feedback with Tappe Henning, who is now the manager of the refereeing in the competition and he will be visiting South Africa in the next two weeks,” said Everitt.

“He will be sitting down with us and we will be raising our concerns and he will be highlighting the areas that they have been looking at.

“Unfortunately, there wasn’t time between the Currie Cup and the URC to sort all these matters out.

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“We may feel that we were hard done by, but it also is not that way – it was more the interpretation that was slightly different.”

Everitt highlighted comments by Stormers coach John Dobson about SA teams wanting to be rewarded in the power part of the game – the mauls and scrums.

“We would like the South African teams to get more reward in that area, but at the same time we got to be squeaky clean as well and stick to the laws of the game and adapt to the interpretations of the referees.”

When asked if referees should be applying the letter of the law instead of interpreting what they see, Everitt responded: “That is a difficult one to answer because you’ve got a law and the game should be blown according to the law, but I think at times you got to have a feel for the game.

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“A guy like Jaco Peyper has been reffing for a long period of time and he certainly has a feel for the game and he is confident in his own ability, but at the end of the day, he still does blow the law.

“At the end of the day I wouldn’t say the refs aren’t blowing the law, I’m just saying that they are interpreting the law a little bit differently.”

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Dobson believes we saw two different versions of the game being played over the last few weeks.

“I probably said too much last week,” said Dobson.

“I did promise Tappe some element of confidentiality.

“I think you saw in the Connacht game that there was a lack of contest [in line-out mauls and scrum], which you see in South African derbies.

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“We see them as Northern Hemisphere referees whereas they see them as neutral from separate countries.

“We had some issues about how much of a contest the maul and scrum areas were in South Africa in the local derbies, compared to what we saw in those games with referees in that last round [in the Northern Hemisphere].

“It didn’t only apply to us, so that is something we are trying to iron out because South Africans by nature contest very hard at set-pieces.

“Everything is contested in South African rugby and you got some other teams who see scrums just as a restart.”

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