Former Test referee Jonathan Kaplan says Pretoria-based Jaco van Heerden should not have been given the Bulls-Sharks match at Loftus last Saturday.
Van Heerden and TMO Johan Greeff were heavily criticised for their performance, which saw a Francois Hougaard try awarded in the 25th minute despite the final pass from Jesse Kriel going forward, and SP Marais's 65th-minute try disallowed because of an apparent knock-on from Odwa Ndungane. There were other questionable decisions in the game that went against the Sharks.
'I’m not going to dissect each and every incident,' Kaplan wrote on ratetheref.co.za. 'I don’t think it is wise to crucify a young up-and-coming referee, who is just starting out on his journey, but for starters I don’t think it is ideal to be appointing a Pretoria-based referee for this fixture. It’s all about perception, and errors made inadvertently for the home team are magnified. He didn’t need the extra pressure and he could quite easily have done the Lions-Stormers game in Joburg.
'There were some emotional people after the game claiming that there was cheating or a bias towards the Bulls. This is simply untrue. This referee is a man of honour, an absolute gentleman, and he will be given the tools to improve over time. Whether he makes it, is as much up to him as it will be up to his customers’ views on his ability.'
However, Kaplan echoed the sentiments of Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold when he said officials needed to be more consistent.
'I disagreed that the pass for Hougaard’s try wasn’t clearly and obviously forward and was bemused that this wasn’t checked by the referee himself or alerts given to him by his assistants. It only came as an afterthought when they were checking for foot in touch. If the first incident wasn’t clear and obvious, I’m not sure how Ndungane’s knock could be seen as such either. And therein perhaps lies the rub of the green. Just a bit of inconsistency that seems to rile the public.'
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