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URC refs not perfect but close says Henning

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The United Rugby Championship Head of Match Officials Tappe Henning is very pleased with his referees’ performances.


Henning admitted the officials are far from flawless, however, he believes they are very close to their goals.

When asked to assess the officiating,  Henning rated it at a 7.5.

“10 out 10 is what we expect from our referees,” Henning said, adding: “But we are a 7.5 to 8.

“I am pleased to say there are no real train smashes or big decisions that have influenced the outcome of the game or that caused an upset after the first two rounds.

“Like the players, the referee showed a little bit of rustiness and it is actually already better in Round Two.

“Like the players, they also need to get game fit.


“Understandably there will be errors and mistakes but nothing major to be concerned about.”

While there were not a lot of moments of contention, Henning sent a stern warning to players in the wake of Bundee Aki’s red card during Connacht’s defeat to the Stormers.

Aki was red-carded after making a dangerous cleanout on Stormers wing Seableo Senatla.

The wing attempted to steal the ball on the ground when Aki came crashing into him with most of the contact around the head and neck area.


Aki protested the decision and continued to complain to the referee and assistant referees before leaving the field.

The centre’s reaction caused a major stir with many fearing it could become a norm for players.

“Players understand that if the referee deems something is a red-card offence, it has a huge impact on their team and they are emotional,” Henning said, adding: ” In those situations, you don’t need referees to over-act.

“If it exceeds the limit and starts becoming directed at the match officials, [accusing them of] incompetence or directly aiming at the ability of the referee and their decision-making we expect the referees to draw the line and say: ‘Bundee, we’ve had enough. I know you’re disappointed’.

“I thought [referee] Gianluca Gnecchi was very smart in how he said ‘I explained’ and asked the captain to deal with the player, just to diffuse the situation.

“If it gets worse than that then the referee will definitely act.”

He added: “I’m pretty sure that in the disciplinary process, I’ve seen many times how the disciplinary hearing makes mention of the player accepting the decision of the match official on the day.

“In this case, I’m pretty sure that the disciplinary hearing will probably give its attention to that. I don’t want to say what they should do but I’ve seen examples where it was addressed.

“It comes into consideration when the sanction is being reached.

“Players know that poor behaviour towards the match official when such a big decision is being made can lead to a different sanction in terms of weeks.

“To sum up, we don’t want referees to over-react when they realise the player with adrenaline in the heat of the moment says something that two minutes later he’ll be sorry about. I’m pretty sure Bundee when he was back in his seat, was saying ‘actually I am in trouble here’.

“At that moment, he would have defended it with his life because he’s part of a team and realises he’s let his team down – he tries to defend it.

“If we sense it is becoming a problem then we’ll send out a message to the clubs first that match officials will not tolerate it and it’s a club problem.

“If it comes on to the field, we as match officials will deal with it in the harshest way.”



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