‘TMO mistakes inexcusable’

SARugbymag.co.za's panel of experts on the standard of officiating in Vodacom Super Rugby.

ROBBIE KEMPSON (former Stormers, Sharks and Bok prop)

'Sanzar's decision to give [referee] Jaco van Heerdan such a high-profile match [his first at Super Rugby level] completely baffled me. He was clearly overwhelmed by the intensity of the Loftus game. What really worries me is when the TMO gets a decision wrong, even when he has technology to help him. Bismarck du Plessis had the right to feel aggrieved when the Bulls weren't 10m [following a kick late in the game that should have resulted in a Sharks penalty] and when [Pierre] Spies's hand was in the ruck when the Sharks were close to the tryline and the Bulls were not penalised. Decisions like that had a big impact on the match and could impact the Sharks' campaign. However, the officials are not that bad. There will be decisions that people don't agree with, but referees make so many decisions during a match.'

JOHN MITCHELL (former All Blacks, Lions and Force coach)

'The officials were more consistent in round three than in the opening two rounds. The tournament is still in its infancy and things will settle down as the season progresses. Officials should also have to face a post-match press conference to explain certain decisions instead of all the finger pointing we get on a Monday morning. There's no way to solve human error, but they should at least be consistent when making decisions. A good example is when the Blues were penalised for a ruck infringement after a maul was called. The law states the defending team has a right to finish the maul, but the referee [Rohan Hoffmann] awarded a penalty to the Cheetahs. Any other ref would have given a scrum to the Blues.'

THINUS DELPORT (former Lions, Sharks and Bok fullback)

'It's mostly young referees whose decisions are under the microscope, so I'd say it's a combination of incompetence and wrongful interpretation. Like inexperienced players get found out, so are referees. The difference is senior players guide the young bucks, whereas senior linesmen and TMOs don't. They should know when a pass is forward or not. Someone should be held accountable, and be made an example of. Perhaps send the perpetrators back to the lower leagues to get re-educated on the laws of rugby. The system in place is a good one, but common sense should also be applied.'

WAYNE FYVIE (former Sharks and Bok flank)

'Referees will always make mistakes, the biggest problem is the lack of consistency. Jaco van Heerden made crucial errors that could potentially cost the Sharks a place in the play-offs or a home play-off. But he is young and will learn from his mistakes. We have really have good referees in South Africa, but they will make mistakes when they are still developing.'

KOBUS WIESE (former Lions and Bok lock)

'It would be unfair to judge officials on one weekend's work where a couple of calls went the wrong way. Referees will always make the odd mistake. The problem lies in consistently applying the law. For instance, a spear tackle should be an automatic red card across the board. But some teams only concede a penalty and get no further sanction. There are four officials involved in a match. The three on the field might have an excuse for letting the odd mistake slip through, but for a TMO to get a call wrong is inexcusable. It shouldn't happen, not with the equipment he has at his disposal. And while refs should be given some leeway, those who consistently make errors must be punished. Demote them to club rugby or give them further training in the areas where they struggle. Officials should also admit they made errors and apologise to teams and coaches, even if it's behind closed doors.'

Jonathan Kaplan's view