Stormers head coach John Dobson and captain Steven Kitshoff both admitted after the loss to Connacht in Galway that the officiating during the match differed markedly from what they were used to in the local South African derbies.
Just as it was when the South African teams started the Vodacom United Rugby Championship with overseas fixtures, the difference between northern and southern hemisphere refereeing was thrust into the spotlight on Saturday.
During the URC clash against Connacht, the Stormers found themselves on the wrong end of Scottish referee Ben Blain’s whistle. The Stormers conceded eight penalties compared to Connacht’s four and had Sergeal Petersen and Ruhan Nel yellow-carded in the second half.
In the SuperSport studios, former Springbok coach Nick Mallett hit out at Blain’s handling of the match, while former Bok prop Rob Kempson was also critical of the general standard of refereeing.
Speaking during the post-match press conference, Dobson avoided criticising Blain directly, but said he felt his side struggled to adapt to the difference in interpretation of the laws, especially when it came to the maul and scrum.
“It felt like that last tour when we were here and adapting to a slightly different realm, especially around the scrum and the maul,” Dobson said. “The penalty count was a concern, and we’ll have to have a look at it.
“The jump from local derbies to a northern hemisphere game up here was always going to require a certain level of adaptation, and maybe we weren’t fast enough or sharp enough there.
“Cross-playing will help. When they come down to us (European teams to SA), we can try to get these styles to match up.
“I think you would all agree that what we saw over the local derbies, especially at scrum and maul time, wasn’t what we saw today in terms of teams getting rewarded or penalised or how you can defend mauls.
“I think the more we play each other, the more we’ll get some form of uniformity. I don’t want to say much more than that, but you can sense it was a source of frustration for us.”
Stormers skipper Kitshoff shared his coach’s frustrations as he felt they could have got more reward for their dominance in the mauls.
“The mauling was very frustrating,” Kitshoff said. “I felt we had complete dominance when it came to maul time, and we didn’t get any reward out of it.
“There were some cynical penalties that were missed. I’m not bad-mouthing the ref at all, but there were clear penalties missed, and it was very frustrating.
“We’ll have a look at what went wrong and then discuss it with the refs prior to the games, but it was very frustrating not to get more reward out of those amazing maul metre we made.”
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