Being called a sore loser is a 'non-call'
Personally, I'm not an ardent Springbok fan. Perhaps it's a hint of bitterness never pulling the green and gold over my head. Most probably.
The fact that SARU is killing the local game with its sole focus on the Springboks and all the political issues that come with it definitely plays a role as well.
Instead of focusing on developing the unlimited, diverse resources we have in South Africa and making sure that every child in South Africa does not have to walk too far to get to a rugby field, they focus on the end-game.
Instead of promoting and selling our local game and tournaments to the masses so that local heroes might be accessible, SARU sells the Springboks with window dressing campaigns like #loverugby.
You can counter me with the nice intent behind it. I will strike back with the reality on ground level.
I am South African rugby supporter. I adore the Currie Cup. Nothing entertains and gets me excited like our schoolboy rugby and I know the quality we have at club level.
A few weeks ago the local pay-TV station aired a Gold Cup game between Worcester and Welkom Rovers.
The Stadium in the Boland was packed to capacity. The local community came in their masses to attend. The vibe was terrific and the people hungry for rugby.
Can you imagine the grassroots work that can be done off the back of an event like that? Simply just making players available, real and within arms reach to young men and woman.
That interaction will plant a seed that can develop into something meaningful.
Ok, so now that I have made my point that I am not a biased 'Bokke' supporter, but an ardent fan trying to follow ALL of our rugby at all levels, I want to have a closer look at the recent Rugby Championship game in New Zealand.
The Boks are not in a good place. And when you are down, people tend to treat you that way as well.
Perceptions manifest themselves in the way referees adjudicate games.
I am a strong believer in this.
When people see coaches like Michael Cheika complain about referees, I see someone perhaps pointing out a subconscious predisposition or prejudice towards the other team.
These are not seen in the calls made by referees. But rather by the Non-Calls.
For the readers out there that have not heard this term before. It's an actual thing.
After each performance match officials gets assessed by the particular refereeing body.
Although not public knowledge, they get a rap on the knuckles for Non-calls. Or calls that were not made during the match.
Say what you want, the All Blacks are definitely the recipients of some non-calls.
The fact that they are currently so superior must make it difficult to see anything wrong in what they do.
With this in mind, let's have a look at some instances during the match between the All Blacks and the Springboks last weekend.
We will point out some Non-calls as well as some questionable calls made in favour of the Blacks.
At two minutes into the game: A pass from Aaron Smith to Ryan Crotty from a line-out. Flat on the line. It is debatable.
At 10 minutes in the game: The Springboks get penalised for a routine dummy jump. And I quote Angus Gardner: "You can't jump before the ball is in" and "the movement caused the All Black Player to go up in the front". I must be honest. I have never seen or experienced this as a player before. Eben Etzebeth is arguably the best front jumper in the world and executioner of the speed ball in the front of the line-out. This fact alone will trigger any movement, by him, if the opposition is trying to contest against him. Angus Gardener "might" be technically correct, but for me, that is looking to scratch where there is no itch.
At 24 minutes in the game: The Blacks kicks a contestable box kick from Aaron Smith. Francois Louw gets penalised for sealing off. You would much rather have said that Ardie Savea got in on the ball and stole it rather than Louw sealing off, but if you take a closer look, you will see Brodie Retallick trying to clean Louw of the ball from an "arguably" side entrance position. Louw subsequently brushes him off to gets in for the clean. But Savea was already on the ball.
At 26 minutes in the game: Francois Hougaard runs it out from the Boks' 22. From the subsequent ruck the whole All Black defensive line is offside. Joe Moody and Retallick lead the way, with Moody being so far offside and shooting up, he never looked at when the ball left the ruck that Warren Whiteley stepped him easily.
At 32 minutes in the game: Sam Whitelock gets penalised for a neck roll on Pieter-Steph du Toit. Angus Gardner: "I can't conclude if it was around the neck or part of the dynamic ruck". George Ayoub confirms the contact with the neck. Only a penalty. I can think of many examples where this instance would have resulted in a card as well. Let me be very clear. I find this to be a rubbish rule to make the game safer. If you understand the mechanics of the head/neck, you will know that there is a lot of of scenarios that are worse that do not get penalised than full contact with the neck. The top of the head is a hinge to the neck and in grappling or submission wrestling a crank using the top of the head is forbidden whereas full contact with the neck is not. You see a lot of time players get cleaned out by someone pulling on the side or top of their head. Never penalised – which is a lot more dangerous in terms of injury to the neck!
At 43 minutes in the game: Francois de Klerk kicks a box kick. Bryan Habana chase and get obstructed by Kieran Read. It's a standard thing in rugby, but if you want to be consistent you have to penalise it – seeing that he ran a line to get in front of Habana.
At 55 minutes in the game: Wyatt Crockett turns the ball over. If you look at it closely Etzebeth cleans directly over the ball, but do not touch Crockett. This was because Crockett swung around and was in at a 45 degrees angle. Hence he does not get cleaned out. On any other day in any other team, he would have been penalised for coming in from the side.
At 56 minutes in the game: Ardie Savea never grounded the ball to score the try. Should have been referred upstairs.
At 59 minutes in the game: There is a forward pass from Ryan Crotty to Dane Coles. Even the New Zealand crowd thought so.
At 61 minutes in the game: Kieran Read gets told repeatedly to let go by Angus Gardener. Nevertheless, when he finally leaves it, the ball was already slowed down significantly and the defence had time to set.
At 70 minutes in the game: This one can be debated endlessly. But the mere fact that the New Zealand television production team decided NOT to show the full slow motion replay from the side, but rather Koch's reaction smells, rotten to me. Koch had been penalised not long before for "taking it down". The call was repeated. I am going to shine a bit of light on that deep, dark place they call the front of the scrum. When tightheads come up against old and experienced dogs like Crockett, they tend to lose those battles. Although referees are trained these days to look at the left elbow and hips of loosehead props to detect whether they are hinging, the old dogs know exactly how to generate those quick movements to offset a tight head and make him lose his footing so that it looks like he "pancakes" – falling flat on his tummy – thus winning the penalty. Add to that the fact that Crockett was definitely coming in at a bit of an angle. You could argue that Koch's feet were too far back, causing him to go down. However, as a Saffer, I'm sticking to the former.
By no way am I saying that these calls would have changed the game significantly. In fact, the All Blacks' handling errors in the first half were probably keeping the score down.
These 10-odd instances are moments to get a point across. Depending on which side you sit, you might agree or disagree.
Enjoy debating them!
But, next time you watch any match, try and see if you can pick up on any non-calls.
You might not be surprised that they went mostly to the side that was perceived to be favourite.
By Ethienne Reynecke