Law discussion: tackling man without ball?
Argentina is putting the ball through short phases which are not advancing. Marcos Kremer has the ball and is tackled by Schalk Brits and Vincent Koch.
He falls to the ground and a tackle-ruck forms.
The ball comes back to the waiting scrumhalf, Felipe Ezcurra of Argentina. Ezcurra looks down at the ball, picks it up and is turning to pass it to his left when Siya Kolisi of South Africa bursts through and tackles him.
The referee, who was close to the action, penalises Kolisi, saying: “He didn’t have the ball yet and you tackled him. He must pick the ball up.”
The replay makes it obvious that Ezcurra did pick the ball up and did have the ball when Kolisi tackled him.
- Continue reading below video …
If you look at the much-preached principle of “clear and obvious”, this is clearly and obviously wrong and a breach of the sound advice to referees that they should react only on what is clear and obvious.
Play should have gone on.
The pity of this sort of decision is that it adds to the uncertainty which even top players experience at the tackle.
At best this decision must have been based on guesswork because it is not what happened. Guesswork is dangerous for referees; in fact, guessing and getting it wrong is worse than “missing” an infringement.
A wise old referee, Jimmy Smith-Belton, used to preach: “Watch the game, believe what you see and act accordingly.”
There are people who get excited when referees make mistakes. (And that is all they do – make mistakes and make enormous efforts to avoid mistakes.) It’s not something to get excited about and to mount a high horse, for refereeing is a human activity and all humans make mistakes, as do players. The referee is active for all 80 minutes of a match played at speed by big, strong men in contact with other big, strong men, both sets of strong men trying to get one over the other group.
The incident here is not to get excited about; it’s just an opportunity to think about Jimmy’s advice.