Thu 28 Feb 2019 | 06:19

OPINION: When players lose self-control

OPINION: When players lose self-control
Thu 28 Feb 2019 | 06:19
OPINION: When players lose self-control

OPINION: @rugby365com‘s acclaimed writer Paul Dobson looks at some of the values that may be missing from the game – when players lose self-control.


In a rugby match it would be quite possible to kill a man – and get away with it. But murder on a rugby field does not exist, not even in an Agatha Christie novel.

There may be many reasons it does not exist and amongst those reasons must be self-control. I am excited, I am motivated, I am angry – but I control my emotions.

Self-control is important in all sports, but especially in a game of great physical conflict, like rugby football.

Control is vital the game and has ever been so. But let the playing charter speak. Please, look at it before we get onto last Saturday at Newlands.





Rugby owes much of its appeal to the fact that it is played both to the letter and within the spirit of the laws. The responsibility for ensuring that this happens lies not with one individual – it involves coaches, captains, players and referees.

It is through discipline, control and mutual respect that the spirit of the game flourishes and, in the context of a game as physically challenging as rugby, these are the qualities which forge the fellowship and sense of fair play so essential to the game’s ongoing success and survival.

Old-fashioned traditions and virtues they may be, but they have stood the test of time and, at all levels at which the game is played, they remain as important to rugby’s future as they have been throughout its long and distinguished past. The principles of rugby are the fundamental elements upon which the game is based and they enable participants to immediately identify the game’s character and what makes it distinctive as a sport.


It is through discipline, control and mutual respect that the spirit of the game flourishes

Go and look at the match played at Newlands on Saturday and look for discipline, control and mutual respect. They are there, but not all of the time.

A lot has been said about the refereeing and yet it may have been that it was a problem of discipline, control and mutual respect, which
“lies not with one individual – it involves coaches, captains, players and referees”, starting with whoever allowed the players onto the field in confusing colours – lots of red, blue and black.

Certainly player behaviour played was notably poor on occasions.

In the first half, the Stormers were penalised nine times. They were not clever infringements – a deliberate knock-on, playing the man without the ball, three successive air tackles and two side entries, both by Alistair Vermaak.

Player reaction was not helpful.

  • Continue watching below highlights video ….

When Bongi Mbonambi was penalised for a pretty gross act of shoulder-pushing Nic Groom out of the way when following up a box kick, he had advice for the referee. As the half went on he and prop Frans Malherbe had more advice for the referee.

Not that the Stormers were the only ones objecting and advising. Elton Jantjies got a pass back from out side his 22 and from about eight metres inside his 22 kicked towards the touchline some 45 metres to is left. The ball went out well inside the Stormers half, some 44 metres downfield from where he kicked. The ball hit the touchline and so was kicked directly into touch, which meant a scrum to the Stormers inside the Lions’ 22. Elton Jantjies was angry and even advised the referee to consult the TMO, which would have been outside the TMO protocol anyway.

After Warren Whiteley went off, Jantjies’s behaviour deteriorated. His body language towards the referee was discourteous in a tantrum way. When he protested about the grounding of the ball by Herschel Jantjies for a try, he was not being even honest as he had a clear view of the grounding an unimpeded five metres next to him. His behaviour was disappointing and did his team – and the match – no favours.

A player must not do anything that is against the spirit of good sportsmanship.
Players must respect the authority of the referee. They must not dispute the referee’s decisions. They must stop playing immediately when the referee blows the whistle to stop play.
Sanction: Penalty

Nowhere in the laws of the game does it say that any player, including a captain, has a right to ask a referee an explanation, let alone make him a suggestion. It has become a custom, it seems, that the captain may ask the referee for an explanation of a decision. The captain is still not allowed to dispute the decision. And it certainly is not a captain’s prerogative to suggest that the referee send a player off, as happens.

The best example of accepting a referee’s decision was from Alistair Vermaak. He was sent to the sin bin for entering a tackle/ruck from the side twice. Side entry is not in itself an element of foul play. The entry was an infringement, but not the manner of it, for Vermaak still had his arms out to wrap them around Kwagga Smith on each occasion. It was an infringement, as offside is, but not foul play and so not worth overriding a penalty advantage and sending Vermaak to the sin bin, but off Vermaak went without any sign, in words or body language, of dissent.

Much could be said on the matter, starting with the overexuberant celebration of a tries and going on to the cries of “Holding” and “Offside” from “Medic” carers on the touchline.

No referee niggle is calculated to enhance the calm coolness which a referee requires, and calm coolness certainly aids consistency, which all desire.

By Paul Dobson

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