Revealed: Who is behind Boks' referee coach idea
SPOTLIGHT: Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick and captain Siyamthanda Kolisi explained why the introduction of a referee coach will be a boost for the world champions.
That topic made headlines in South Africa over the weekend when reports suggested that the Boks were looking to add legendary Welsh ref Nigel Owens to their coaching staff.
During a press conference in Cape Town on Tuesday, Stick was asked about Owens but the coach did not mention the Welshman’s name directly when answering.
Stick rather focused on the reasoning behind the inclusion of a referee coach, especially with South Africa’s history when it comes to being in World Rugby’s bad books for pointing out issues with refereeing decisions.
Stick referred to it as “off-field battles” and Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus has been in the thick of things over the last few years.
Erasmus received a long stadium ban for his infamous hour-long video criticising referee Nic Berry’s performance in the first Test between the Springboks and the British and Irish Lions in 2021.
Erasmus made headlines again in November last year when he received a two-game ban for a string of Twitter posts focussing on refereeing decisions in their narrow defeats to Ireland and France.
“The Director is behind that,” said Stick, when asked about the possible appointment of Owens.
“We as coaches are in the camp at the moment and just focussing on the players.
“It [referee coach] is something we discussed as a coaching staff.
“We know that the refs are the CEOs [on the field], so if we can get someone on our side that can advise and help us to prepare for the games then the coaches can stay away from those off-field battles with the match officials.
“The game should be about the players and that is something we need to respect at the moment. That’s why we are looking for someone who can come inside our camp and assist us.
“I don’t think we will be the first team. I think France also has someone [Jerome Garces] in their coaches’ box who is assisting them with the reffing stuff.”
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For Kolisi, it is all about having a better relationship with the referee on the field and that includes good communication.
“I think it would be great to get someone that can help us. Someone who works directly with World Rugby and then addresses us,” said Kolisi.
“I think it will keep us informed with the new rules and the way we speak to a ref. We always treat them with respect as much as we can.
“We all have a role to play in the game – if something happens to someone on the field, it can’t always be me [talking] because I wouldn’t know what happened if I am far away.
“That player can also speak to the ref and also learn what is the best time to speak to a ref.
“I know some refs are different and they work differently and that is why teams are doing it [appointing a referee coach] because it helps the players learn the laws, which is vitally important.
“You can hear through the mics during the Six Nations how the players are talking to them and that doesn’t happen overnight.
“As much as we are working hard on the field, if you don’t treat the ref with respect then it’s not going to work for you because they are human beings and they also get irritated.
“It’s good to learn to respect them and speak to them accordingly because, at the end of the day, they are in charge of the game, not us as players.”
Stick suggested that the Boks might have missed a trick by not bringing in a referee coach sooner.
“It is something that maybe we didn’t see and we didn’t have an opportunity to use because if you bring someone in he has got to be a part of your team – he needs to be in front of the players daily.
“In the past, we maybe didn’t see the value in it.
“I think in general all around the world there are comments between the coaches and the refs. For me personally, it’s not nice to see the game of rugby going towards that side.
“We want to make the game about the players. The headlines should be about the players and that is why we looking for that assistance from the match officials.”