Interpretation damaging game

A couple of decisions last weekend bordered on farcical and action is required before the game loses credibility, writes BRENTON CHELIN.

Referee's interpretation; not clear and obvious – just two of the catch-phrases bandied about on a weekend of poor officiating.

At no stage in the game's existence has the man in the middle wielded more power, or had more at his disposal to make the correct call. That's the element that frustrates the most.

Rugby is a simple game, complicated by endless laws and their numerous interpretations. On Saturday we witnessed the finest match of a tournament still in its infancy, but instead of discussing the level of rugby played at breakneck intensity between arguably two of South Africa's finest sides, we're left debating a refereeing decision.

TMO Johan Greeff's decision that Jesse Kriel's pass for the Vodacom Bulls' opening try was not forward may not have even been the most match-defining decision of the weekend – that went to Rohan Hoffman's penalty awarded to the Cheetahs in the final minutes much to the bemusement of the Blues. It was, however, the most 'clear and obvious'.

A forward pass is a pass that goes forward. There should be no conjecture here. Football has its faults, especially when it comes to officiating, but the offside rule is unequivocal. A line is drawn on the pitch – cross it and be penalised. A similar device to measure forward passes would eliminate the grey area.

The issue is often compounded further by the power dynamic between TMOs, the referee and the linesman. Communication between the officials remains a problem.

On Saturday morning, the match between the Chiefs and the Crusaders was halted for several minutes just seconds after the kick-off. The officials bumbled their way through the review process and, although they thankfully came to the right decision in the end, the delay was avoidable.

Sanzar has made high-intensity, high-octane rugby part of the agenda for this season's tournament, but stopping play for several minutes to review an incident undermines their intentions.

A challenge system has been touted as a possible solution for incorrect decisions, but the Sharks didn't need to use a white card. The try was reviewed at the referee's discretion, and yet they still managed to come to the incorrect decision. The Sharks had reason to feel aggrieved and their frustrations threatened to boil over shortly afterwards.

As long as interpretation is encouraged, referees will have an excuse for the substandard performances that were meant to be eliminated by the use of technology.

They have all the necessary tools at their disposal to come to the right decision. Unfortunately, the right decision at the moment is a matter of perception, and that's where the problem comes in.

Gary Gold on the officiating at Loftus

Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix