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'It's good': Why no referee rant from Springboks after latest loss

By Liam Heagney

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It’s amazing the difference seven weeks can make. Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus went on the warpath in the wake of the June 24 defeat for the Springboks against the Lions, querying a vast array of first Test refereeing decisions and complaining about the snail pace feedback after submitting clips for review. That outburst landed him a misconduct charge from World Rugby.

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The Springboks had been on the right side of the results since then, bouncing back to twice beat the Lions and win the series while also defeating Argentina twice in the Rugby Championship. That sequence meant that the standard of refereeing in those games wasn’t the hot topic it was when Erasmus filmed his extraordinary 62-minute tirade. 

It was always going to take another Springboks loss to see if anything had changed in the wake of the Erasmus bust-up and it seemingly has. Erasmus isn’t with the Springboks in Australia and it was left to head coach Jacques Nienaber to attend to the post-mortem and any issues the South Africans had coming out of last Sunday’s last-gasp loss to the Wallabies.  

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How Wallabies coach Dave Rennie views this Saturday’s rematch with the Springboks
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How Wallabies coach Dave Rennie views this Saturday’s rematch with the Springboks

That was a contest where the coach admitted that the discipline of his Springboks was poor in that they allowed Quade Cooper to hurt them off the kicking tee. But more importantly, given the unprecedented rumpus caused by Erasmus, it appears that the Springboks have established a more fruitful communication with World Rugby and the match referees regarding how they go about getting post-match feedback on decisions they want to be reviewed.  

That sounds like a very different situation to what unfolded in the aftermath of the first Test loss to the Lions. “We have got a framework that we work with now that we probably didn’t know,” explained Nienaber at a media briefing ahead of this Saturday’s rematch with the Wallabies in Brisbane.  

“It’s the same framework they used in the Six Nations and us not playing any rugby (in 20 months) before the Georgia Test match, we didn’t 100 per cent know what the process was. We made our clips (after Sunday’s game) and they went out on Monday after our review. It went through to Joel (Jutge, the referees boss) for World Rugby. They reviewed it and came back to us. The purpose of that is to get alignment from our side. 

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“Everybody makes mistakes. We make mistakes, referees sometimes get things wrong, you can’t get everything right. But let’s say a player conceded three penalties and the referee will come back and say it was maybe a 50/50 call that maybe could have gone the other way or maybe he wasn’t offside, he didn’t transgress… then that will influence selection. 

“You will look at the player and say, ‘Listen, you conceded three but they came back and said two of those weren’t (penalties) when they had all the angles and looked at it and play on would have been a better call’. That will influence the selection and that is all we want, to have clarity on the Test match so that when we select the team or we start talking about team selection that we don’t nail a player because his discipline was poor if it comes back from a referee that a better option there might have been play on. 

“I must say the feedback and the work from them has been good, from Joel’s side and from the referee’s side. There is good alignment and we will have another opportunity during the week to talk with them, a meeting on Thursday or Friday with the referees just to get clarity with our captain and vice-captains, get them talking and get a relationship going so when they meet each other on the pitch it is not the first time they will have a chat about certain things.

“I thought our discipline was poor,” he continued, reflecting on last weekend’s defeat on the Gold Coast. “Not poor in the sense that we conceded more penalties than Australia. We didn’t concede more penalties than them but for our standard and the fact we only conceded one try and scored three, they had kicks at goals and four of them were offside penalties. It is the most offside penalties we conceded in the Test matches that I have been involved in. That is what I mean by indiscipline.”

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'It's good': Why no referee rant from Springboks after latest loss

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