Warren Gatland is reportedly furious that South African Marius Jonker, rather than a neutral official, has been appointed as the TMO for the Test series between the British & Irish Lions and the Springboks.
Originally, New Zealand official Brendon Pickerill was set to serve as the Television Match Official, but he had to pull out due to travel disruption caused by Covid-19.
It’s said that World Rugby’s contingency plan had to be local officials, and so Jonker will now fulfil this role.
Jonker was the TMO when scrumhalf Faf de Klerk was yellow-carded for a high tackle in the game between SA A and the Lions, but Gatland suggested it should have been a red card that came with a potential suspension.
“Someone was watching a different picture to me,” Gatland said after the game. “I thought it looked reckless to me. No arms and he’s hit the arm first and then the shoulder, but there’s definitely head-on-head contact.”
Gatland apparently met Nic Berry, who will referee Saturday’s Test, on Thursday to express his desire for greater consistency around adjudications such as the high-tackle law.
Multiple reports from UK media also suggest that Gatland and the Lions’ upper hierarchy reacted with exasperation when hearing about Jonker’s appointment.
“The last thing that we want from a Lions perspective is a Test match decided on someone making a really poor decision – going in with a shoulder, a tackle too high,” said Gatland.
Ironically, the last Lions series swung in favour of the tourists after Sonny Bill Williams’ red card for a high tackle on Anthony Watson.
During the latter stages of the final Test, a kickable penalty that had been awarded to the All Blacks was also overturned, denying the hosts a likely series victory.
At a media briefing on Friday, Lions assistant Robin McBryde commented on Jonker’s appointment, stating: “There’s a reason that position is neutral. There was no plan B.”
Saturday’s match between the Boks and Lions kicks off at 6pm and will be broadcast live on SuperSport. Nic Berry of Australia has been appointed as referee for this Test, with Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand) and Mathieu Raynal (France) assisting him on the sidelines.