Super Rugby is Seconds away from another reffing blaps
Those who manage referees and match officials really ought to troubleshoot before they make appointments
Let’s start by agreeing that referees, and match officials in general, have it tough. Very few top-flight referees escape being labelled controversial. That said, you’d think those who manage referees and match officials routinely troubleshoot when they make appointments – simply to avoid controversy.
That’s why Super Rugby operator Sanzaar’s decision to appoint Egon Seconds as referee of a match involving a team he used to represent – together with the rest of the Cape-based officiating team that did duty at Newlands last week – is so baffling.
Seconds, who played for Western Province and the Stormers between 2001 and 2007, along with assistant referee Divan Uys and television match official (TMO) Christie du Preez made some highly disputed decisions in the Stormers’ win over the Lions. Their mistakes are there for all to see.
Sanzaar tacitly recognised that errors were made in that match by making amendments to their list of appointments for this weekend’s Super Rugby matches. Times Select has been reliably told Seconds, Uys and Du Preez were all earmarked to officiate the Lions’ derby match against the Bulls at Ellis Park before changes were made to the schedule originally circulated to match officials.
Seconds and Uys have been redeployed to the match in Durban involving the Sharks and the Stormers. As for Du Preez, he’s being rested this weekend after just one match in the TMO’s box this season.
Of course the changes have had a knock-on effect with Jaco Peyper, who was supposed to have a breather this weekend, set for whistle duty in Durban. The entire contingent initially set for duty in Durban will now travel to Ellis Park with New Zealander Paul Williams taking charge. He must be fuming.
Two sources in refereeing circles independently confirmed that the changes have been made from the original list of appointments. Both declined to be named for fear of victimisation.
That Sanzaar opted to allocate last week’s match to Seconds, who also came in for heavy criticism for his handling of last year’s Currie Cup semifinal between Western Province and the Blue Bulls, was sheer folly.
Although he’s on their elite panel, Seconds is yet to fully establish himself as a match official of the highest order and he was placed in a deeply unenviable position at Newlands. Apart from Seconds, the appointment of three other Cape based officials in TMO Du Preez and assistant refs Uys and Aimee Barrett-Theron, for a match at Newlands invited trouble.
In an inexorably tense, high pressured environment matters were exacerbated by the fact that Uys and Barrett-Theron’s ran up the touchline for the first time in Super Rugby.
It was a perfect storm, if you like.
Appointments are often made with budget constraints featuring uppermost in Sanzaar’s deliberations. They will talk down that notion.
Sanzaar will argue match officials at that level are impartial and neutral, and that they should stand above any perceived or suggested provincial or regional allegiances. That, however, does not sufficiently take into account that the folks on the field are judged in the court of public opinion and that they, like the rest of us, aren’t impervious to criticism.
Sanzaar will probably also point to the fact that New Zealand referee Glen Jackson’s appointment to matches involving the Chiefs, a team he long represented with distinction, rarely raises an eyebrow.
The difference is Jackson is a vastly experienced referee at the top of this craft, while Seconds’s time in the top flight can arguably be measured in the units mirroring his surname.