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SA referees under the microscope

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The astonishing numbers behind South African refereeing that paint an ugly picture

The Hurricanes, Highlanders, and Crusaders all failed to beat South African-conference teams, with the Highlanders and Crusaders left asking questions after both teams were frustrated with calls made by South African referees. It follows frustrations from the Waratahs who were left puzzled last week against the Lions.

TMO Marius Jonker controversially denied the Crusaders a try in the 75th minute which would have sunk the Stormers while Rasta Rasivhenge pinged the Highlanders 12 times to the Lions’ 3 in Johannesburg. The penalty count against the Highlanders was similar to last week’s Bulls versus Crusaders match under Rasivehenge’s watch, which ended with a 12-4 advantage to the home side in Pretoria.

The objectivity of South African referees when reffing South African teams at home against non-South African opponents has been called into questions by fans and media alike.

This season international teams have lost the penalty count 96-47 when playing in South Africa against the Bulls, Lions, Stormers, and Sharks with a South African ref.

When those same South African sides play at home with a non-South African ref against international sides, the count is much more even at 72-66.

Non-South African teams are getting penalised 33.3% more with a South African ref, while the home teams are getting penalised 28.8% less, resulting in a significant swing advantage in the penalty count to the South African sides.

Have the Bulls, Lions, Sharks, and Stormers just been far more behaved when a South African referee has the whistle, and conversely are international visitors offending more?

When ex-Stormers player Egon Seconds has refereed in those fixtures, the penalty count is a staggering 3-31 in favour of South African teams. For every one penalty the opposition is awarded, South African teams are receiving 10. That type of imbalance will kill any contest.

Seconds was dropped following his performance against the Waratahs which among many things, involved the ref pushing opposition players at the ruck.

Rasta Rasivhenge has a penalty count of 23 against South African teams and 44 against international opposition in games in South Africa.

An international away side has only won the penalty count once this season in South Africa with a South African ref, when the Chiefs smashed the Bulls under AJ Jacobs at Loftus Versfeld. It has been the only game in these set of circumstances AJ Jacobs has officiated.

When ex-Australian Sevens player and Brisbane rugby stalwart Damon Murphy reffed the Queensland Reds in Tokyo against the Sunwolves, the visitors ended up with a 11-4 penalty advantage as the Sunwolves were pinged out of the game handing the under-pressure Reds their first win of the season. Murphy’s brother played for the Reds while Damon himself made one non-Super Rugby appearance for the club.

While the standard of officiating in South Africa is doing little to improve the perception of bias, SANZAAR could eliminate this by ensuring neutral refs are employed for fixtures between non-conference teams whilst also ensuring that ex-players can’t ref their old teams.

Interview with Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle:

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The astonishing numbers behind South African refereeing that paint an ugly picture