Rassie calls for officiating clarity, highlights incidents

The intensity of the buildup to the first Test between the Boks and British & Irish Lions has continued to intensify amid ‘differing’ views shared by the coaches over foul play incidents this past Wednesday.

Springbok scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, who started for South Africa A at Cape Town Stadium, was involved in a collision with the Lions forwards as they attempted a pick-and-go at the tryline towards the end of the first half of the match.

After a TMO review, referee Jaco Peyper decided to yellow-card De Klerk, reasoning that while his tackle was without arms he did not make contact with the head of the opposition player.

Following the game, which SA A won 17-13, Gatland said he felt that De Klerk was fortunate to escape a red card. The Lions coach stuck with his view on Thursday after naming his team to take on the Stormers this weekend.

“I can’t understand when the comments were that there was no contact to the head,” Gatland explained. “Someone was watching a different picture to me. It looked reckless to me, no arms and he’s hit the arm first and then the shoulder, but then there’s definitely head contact.

“We’ve got a meeting with the referees tomorrow just to get a little bit more clarity on that. What we want is some clarity so we can get complete consistency.”

When an overseas publication ran with the story, highlighting Gatland’s call for clarity in order to get “complete consistency”, Erasmus took to Twitter to subtly and somewhat sarcastically ask for the same.

On Friday night, Erasmus also retweeted clips that clearly showed the incidents involving foul play from Owen Farrell, and also another where Maro Itoje puts a forearm into the neck of De Klerk.

Earlier on Friday, Jacques Nienaber was asked about the same subject, and while he was diplomatic in his response, the Bok head coach did say the Springbok management would also engage in their usual feedback session with officials.

“I didn’t see the tweets or Warren’s comments. That’s why we have world-class referees handling these situations. We have so many people examining these things, committees that are convened.

“I’m sure the tackling laws is something that’s been looked after well and I trust the system,” he said after announcing his SA A match squad to face the Bulls on Saturday.

“In terms of the Faf incident, I believe they had all the evidence at their disposal and made a decision on that. And I have confidence in that decision. The referees know safety is a big driver and I trust their judgement.

“We’ll have a meeting late this [Friday] afternoon. But the agenda will just be about determining whether there are areas of concern for us. We must be practical, what can we fix in a day to provide a proper spectacle to the viewers?

“At the end of the day, we’re in the business of entertainment. We are all equally involved in a product that must be safe and enjoyable.

“There are a lot of contests and they must be fair. If referees see red flags, we need to be made aware of them. If there are concerns from our side, we’ll raise them and just find out what a ref’s interpretation will be.”

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Craig Lewis