Sanzaar’s decision to slap Sharks coach Gary Gold with a fine of A$13 500 – which is more than R150 000 – has once again raised the infuriating issue of whether southern hemisphere rugby’s governing body acts with fairness in disciplinary matters concerning South African teams.
Gold was fined for having a less-than-polite chat during the game against the Crusaders with TMO Johan Greeff. The Sharks – and many other teams – have history with this woefully incompetent official as it was his abysmal decision to award a try that saw them lose to the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld last year.
While I have no problem with Gold being fined – even he admitted that what he did was wrong – what raised my ire was the severity of the punishment handed down by Kiwi judicial officer Nigel Hampton.
Especially when one considers that the selfsame Hampton only fined then-Waratahs coach Michael Cheika A$6000 in April 2014 for abusing a cameraman in Durban, also with foul language. And Cheika was a repeat offender, as Hampton himself pointed out in his judgement – “I do not regard Mr Cheika to be a first-time offender and it would be farcical to disregard other matters over the past nine years, including proven misconduct allegations from his time as a professional coach in Europe and a warning from Sanzar during the 2013 SuperRugby season,” he said.
“This matter bears a number of striking similarities with past instances, particularly the use of foul and abusive language towards those charged with running a match and the propensity of Mr Cheika to behave in this manner is disturbing. Given his previous record and the factual findings of the investigation, I regard this as a serious offence and do not see it as a result of any provocation, nor is there any excuse for it.
“Mr Cheika’s admission of guilt and contrition during the hearing is balanced by inappropriate accusations made on his behalf that witnesses fabricated evidence; a notion they rightly recoiled at.”
Cheika was also found guilty, last year, of approaching a referee at halftime and, guess what? Sanzar let him off with a warning!
What is equally infuriating is that Sanzaar continue to come down hard on the symptom of the problem and not the cause – which is incompetent TMOs.
While I have great sympathy for referees, who have to make split-second rulings based on a bewildering variety of laws, especially at ruck time, TMOs really should not be making the mistakes they do. Knowing the laws is one thing, but not being able to see or interpret several replays properly is another; I’d be willing to wager that you could drag someone out of the crowd in their denim jeans and they could do a better job than some of the TMOs Sanzaar have inflicted on the game.
Greeff’s failure to properly review two occurrences in the game against the Crusaders had an obvious impact on the result of the match.
The first was Willie le Roux’s disallowed try in the 66th minute that would have given the Sharks a 19-12 lead. Greeff made a rapid decision that the fullback was in front of the kicker but he made use of just one replay, and the camera angle wasn’t even in line with play.
Then, in the 72nd minute, when Kieran Read scored to give the Crusaders a 19-14 victory, Greeff declined to look at a replay after there had been a suggestion of a knock-on in the 15-phase build-up to the try.
Much of the rugby public is already feeling confused and disenchanted with SuperRugby and its new format; when the officials are seemingly watching an entirely different game to them on TV, despite having the benefit of several replays, then the usual reaction is one of anger and frustration and no brand should want the customers to go through that.