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Ken Borland



Oh for competent officials! 0

Posted on October 27, 2015 by Ken

 

SuperRugby completes the first month of its 2015 season this weekend and it’s not surprising, given the generally low standard of officiating, that the referees and their assistants have been in the spotlight this week.

There has been furious debate about whether the laws of the game were correctly applied at Loftus Versfeld last weekend when the Bulls beat the Sharks; and there is uproar steadily building as well over referee Nick Briant’s performance yesterday in Hamilton, especially towards the end of the Highlanders’ shock win over the Chiefs.

The Loftus Versfeld furore was mostly about Law 12 – the knock-on or throw forward, but perhaps the way to avoid these controversies that do serious damage to the game (nobody wants to watch a sport where the officials decide the outcome rather than the athletes) is to go to Law 6.

This law is about the Match Officials, but nowhere does it say they have to be competent!

In the white-hot arena of top-class rugby, mistakes will inevitably happen and nobody should crucify referees over those. But when a person sitting in a box in the stands gets several replays of an incident and still can’t make the correct decision, then questions need to be asked. The problem is that officials are way above the law and there is no accountability; their decisions never have to be explained. It’s a prime breeding ground for matchfixing, but WorldRugby is in denial of that as well.

The forward pass incident at Loftus has been dressed up as a technical issue involving the direction of the hands being obscured at the time of Jesse Kriel’s pass. TMO Johan Greeff believed the evidence was inconclusive, never mind the ball clearly travelling metres forward on its way to Francois Hougaard. It was such an obvious forward pass that most people picked it up while watching the game live.

If TMOs are going to be seen to have made the correct decision, which is the whole point of having them, then they are going to have to ditch this whole obsession with which direction the hands were going at the time of the pass. None of that technical mumbo jumbo, nothing about gravity or momentum, is even mentioned in the laws of rugby.

Obviously momentum is going to cause a ball to drift forward if the player who passes it is running, but this cannot result in the sort of forward pass Kriel threw to Hougaard.

“A throw forward occurs when a player throws or passes the ball forward. ‘Forward’ means towards the opposing team’s dead ball line,” is all Law 12 states. It’s simple but for several years now officials have conspired to complicate the whole issue with all this talk of “the direction of the hands”.

While they are at it, the lawmakers should also make the ruck laws simpler because, as things stand in this era of “interpretation”, the World Cup final is probably going to be decided by who the referee is.

It cannot be good for the game that the Bulls can have a referee one week (Andrew Lees) who barely blew anything at the ruck and the next week be officiated by somebody who blows to the letter of the law.

Nobody wants to have a game dominated by the officials, but they currently have way too much influence on the result and spectators have started to desert rugby as a result.

 

Glorious day for AB at SCG bucks trend for SA captains at World Cup 0

Posted on September 15, 2015 by Ken

 

South African captains have generally been through the mill at World Cups – the deep pain of Graeme Smith in 2011, Shaun Pollock’s stunned expression in 2003, Hansie Cronje’s tears at Edgbaston in 1999 are all still vivid memories – so it was wonderful to see AB de Villiers enjoy a glorious day at the Sydney Cricket Ground yesterday.

Just five weeks after lashing 149 off 44 balls against the West Indies at the Wanderers – his 31-ball century being the fastest in ODI history – De Villiers made 162 not out off 66 deliveries to destroy the same side at another great cathedral of the game.

In the process, the South African captain reached 150 off a record 64 balls, and De Villiers now holds the records for the fastest 50, century and 150 in ODI history, sealing his status as one of the greatest batsmen to have ever played limited-overs cricket.

The Sydney Cricket Ground rose as one for De Villiers after one of the most scintillating displays of batting ever seen on the global stage, and the likeable 31-year-old now has a beautiful World Cup memory to cherish, replacing the nasty scenes of 2011 when New Zealand substitute Kyle Mills was shouting in his face after a mix up with Faf du Plessis accelerated a South African collapse.

In terms of batting excellence, De Villiers’ innings ticked all the boxes.

He came in under pressure with South Africa having lost both set batsmen, Hashim Amla and Du Plessis, for solid half-centuries in the space of three deliveries from Chris Gayle. De Villiers weathered that storm and was able to rotate the strike for the impressive Rilee Rossouw to capitalise on his own brisk start.

It was only once Rossouw had been dismissed – for a momentum-changing 61 off 39 balls – that De Villiers really took the game away from the West Indies.

There was tremendous skill, innovation, some brute force, wonderful placement and brilliant thinking in De Villiers’ innings. Probably the most impressive feature of his batting is the amount of time he has, even against the quick bowlers, to get any delivery away to the area he has pre-identified as a scoring region.

To say that De Villiers has a tremendous eye for the ball is a bit like saying Imran Tahir (South Africa’s best bowler in the tournament) likes to acknowledge taking a wicket with some sort of celebration; combine that with quick feet, lovely wrists, superb timing and placement, plus tactical nous, and bowling to AB becomes a nightmare for even the best bowlers.

For me, there are probably two more things I’d like to see AB de Villiers do.

One is obviously play the match-winning innings in the World Cup final.

For the other, I’m going to dig up the legend of Barry Richards, arguably the greatest South African batsman ever.

The destructive power of Graeme Pollock, the prolific elegance of Jacques Kallis and the silky skills of Hashim Amla all feature in that debate, but for sheer brilliance in being able to fashion any stroke for any ball, Richards and De Villiers probably come out tops.

In the days of Richards, there was no international cricket for South Africans and the club game was of a very high standard, with provincial players in action most of the time. The legend goes that Richards, bored of the humdrum challenges of plundering hundreds, sometimes used to make it more interesting by only using the side of the bat. And the pitches were generally quite juicy in Natal club cricket.

On one famous occasion at the Collegians Club in Pietermaritzburg, Richards used the side of the bat for an over bowled with the new ball by Pat Trimborn, who played four Tests for South Africa!

Given the extraordinary brilliance of De Villiers, perhaps he should take on the bowlers with only the side of the bat just to even the contest a bit!

 



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