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SA journalist calls for referee to be banned from Test rugby for life

By Ian Cameron
Referee Paul Williams and Siya Kolisi /PA

A South African rugby journalist is calling for referee Paul Williams to be banned from officiating a Test match again following the Springboks’ loss to Australia in Adelaide on Saturday.


James Richardson of the South African threw the proverbial kitchen sink at the New Zealand official, branding him ‘diabolical’, ‘incompetent’ and potentially biased.

The Boks’ 25-17 defeat at the hands of Dave Rennie’s Wallabies wasn’t without its controversies. South African scrumhalf Faf de Klerk was yellow carded after his hands brushed across Nic White’s face, a questionable Marika Koroibete tackle on Duane Vermeulen went unpunished, while a two-man tackle on Makazole Mapimpi was also questioned.

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Richardson branded Williams’ performance as ‘either criminally incompetent or evidence of bias’ in angry op-ed on the website.

“Marike Koroibete should have been carded for the flying shoulder charge that denied Makazole Mapimpi a try.

“Perhaps the worst incident in the first half was one that brings shame onto the game of rugby.

“Williams bought into play-acting from Australia scrumhalf Nic White whose actions have no place in the sport at all.”

He then claimed that both Williams and White “bring the game into disrepute”.



Richardson then went on to claim that the official should be banished to the ‘bush leagues’ for the rest of his whistling career.

“Williams’ diabolical decision-making robbed the Springboks of momentum and points and changed the nature of the game.

“This referee has no place taking charge of big games and should be banished to the bush leagues for the rest of his days.”

He isn’t the first South African to blame the Test loss on officialdom. In fact, it’s become something of a pastime in the country where the Springboks’ are never seemingly at fault for their defeats.


Many believe the phenomenon of ref blaming in the Rainbow Nation has been exacerbated by the antics of current Springboks’ director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, who anchored a 62-minute video in 2021 about referee Nic Berry which became public and massively viral during the British & Irish Lions tour.

Erasmus was banned for his part in the fiasco but it hasn’t seen a decrease in the amount of South Africans who look blame Test losses on officials.


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Kesivan 687 days ago

It's a bit disingenuous to say Rassie's video was just band but no mention that the all experts agree the content was correct. Also that the video was leaked and that's why he was band... the ref was caught out in that video and nothing can be said about the validity of his content. There is a serious issue about inconsistent reffing in Rugby we should stick together as Rugby fans to abolish this. We have modern systems and technology to ensure accurate results. Not being able to hold Refs (officials) accountable is a form of authority rule. I guess there are many people including this author who would prefer to defend this as apposed to having a fair and true outcome. Then there would be nothing to complain about and who ever wins on the day is the true winner.

Silk 689 days ago

The ref maybe was not the best but that is not why we lost. We were diabolically poor. That is it. The Boks did not deserve to win.
Go Bokke

Pierre 689 days ago

3 clear (in full view of officials), forceful and reckless direct hits to the head of Springboks, with no mitigation, not sanctioned at all by the match officials. (On Vermeulen, Gelant and De Allende) Wallabies given a licence to harm the Springbok players in this match. I do not recall any match where this has happened before. So Brendon Pickerill and Taul Trianini also show take the chop.

Poorfour 689 days ago

Regardless of whether Williams’ decisions were right or not, Richardson is totally out of line in publishing this. By all means make an assessment of the facts of the disputed decisions, but personal attacks on the individual should not be remotely acceptable. Rugby referees do a tough job, and at most levels they do it without being paid. Those few who are paid and get to take on international games are the ones who have consistently shown that they can make decisions that are consistent with the current interpretation of the Laws.

For what it’s worth, as a neutral and amateur ref, I didn’t see much that was obviously wrong. A couple of calls for either wider were harsh or (on replay) incorrect, but not more than usual.

Koroibete’s tackle definitely needed a review, but on review it was very clear that his left arm was in a position to tackle - and it was only the pace of the tackle and the point of contact that stopped him being able to wrap. You then have to add to that that Mapimpi had jumped upwards rather than diving down for the line - an illegal act in itself, and one that changed the point of contact and made the tackle significantly more dangerous for the tackler.

I’ve seen similar tackles penalised as shoulder charges, but I’ve also seen similar tackles accepted as fair (and blatant shoulder charges ignored by refs). Williams looked at the footage and made a decision that was consistent with the prevailing interpretation and what he was seeing. You may disagree with the eventual conclusion, but there’s plenty to justify it. You can’t ask for much more than that from a ref.

Éire-1 689 days ago

This is so bad that referee Paul Williams should be cited. A truely shocking performance that last the entire match. His positioning was below amateurish and I haven't seen dangerous play of that nature with the potential to seriously injure and possibly end a players career in decades. Williams clearly has a problem managing high level test matches. Nobody in their right mind and who is a fan of world rugby of which I am could in anyway defend that performance by williams, I would have serious concerns if he was refereeing my young sons game of rugby. Shocking stuff really.

David 690 days ago

I agree with the banned

burt 690 days ago

oh dear ,how sad

NJ 690 days ago

Australia deserved the win, If anything the scoreboard was flattering to the boks BUT .... not pleasant when an official is clearly not doing their job. Accountability would be appreciated

Gray 690 days ago

Ref was Poor, Bokke where poorer dominated territory and possession but could not cross the line, South Africa's attacking with ball in hand was dismal, we desperately need an proper international level attack coach. Why don't we copy some of the Aussies moves which split us apart. Aussie jugby league moves which are superb 👌 👏

Shane 690 days ago

I'm a kiwi and there were several really poor calls in that game

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