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Match fixing saga: Lost in translation

Coaches often deal with tricky questions – worded to extract a headline-grabbing response.

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In the modern era of coached and sanatised media briefings, fewer coaches get entrapped.

However, at the World Cup in France Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber now finds himself in the midst of a ‘match fixing’ storm – all because the question got lost in translation and the true meaning of the answer is now being obscured and used completely out of context.

It revolves around the possibility that Ireland and Scotland could ‘contrive’ a result that would knock South Africa out of the tournament – a scenario brought up by the media.

At the end of the formal post-match media briefing this past Sunday – after the Boks beat Tonga 49-18 – a French journalist asked Nienaber a question.

As is custom at the tournament, an online translator rephrased the question from French to English in the Bok coach’s earpiece.

A clearly bemused Nienaber asked for clarity.

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“If I understand you correct, you say they [Ireland and Scotland] can maybe chat with each other and decide…” he said, then pausing as the journalist through the interpreter suggested Nienaber is misunderstanding the question.

The question was asked again, with a slightly different translation.

Again, with a pained and puzzled look, Nienaber started by seeking clarity.

“Could I believe in a scenario that they will decide: ‘Okay, we want to get this amount of points and then get South Africa out of the way’?”

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This time the French journalist seemed happy that Nienaber was understanding the question correctly.

“That would probably be match-fixing, I would say,”the Bok coach said.

“I hope not.

“Rugby is clean. We wear those T-shirts [that says: ‘Keep rugby clean’].”

Nienaber then made it clear he did not think they would collude.

“Hopefully not, because that would be extremely disappointing, don’t you think?

“That would be extremely disappointing.”

The term ‘match fixing’ has since caused a major storm – both in mainstream and social media.

Without the context of the confusing translation and the fact that the idea was aired by a French journalist, many media outlets seemed to suggest that Nienaber was accusing Ireland Scotland of possible collusion.

That is what is grabbing the headlines, not that some of the context and the question got lost in translation.

(WATCH as Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber responds to a French journalist’s question about the possibility of ‘collusion’ between Ireland and Scotland to knock South Africa out of the World Cup…)

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For the record, only two teams – Wales and England – have already booked their places in the play-offs.

With six places in the last eight remaining, the final week of pool action is sure to provide loads of drama.

Perhaps none more so than in Pool B – where South Africa, Ireland and Scotland are chasing two spots.

The permutations seem multiplex.

World Rugby, the organisers of the tournament, sketched several potential scripts.

Tonga and Romania cannot qualify for the quarterfinals.

1. Scotland must beat Ireland and deny the Irish a bonus point to finish second on the head-to-head rule with South Africa topping the pool.
2. If Ireland gets a bonus point and Scotland does not, Ireland will top the pool on the head-to-head rule from South Africa.
3. A Scotland bonus-point win without Ireland getting anything from the game will see them qualify in second place behind South Africa. The Springboks would finish top on the head-to-head rule.
4. If Scotland wins and both teams get a bonus point, then they join South Africa on 15 points and the points difference will determine the top spot in Pool B.
5. Scotland must win by 21 points or more to claim the top spot ahead of South Africa (South Africa +117, Ireland +122 and Scotland +97). Ireland would then qualify as runners-up on the head-to-head rule, having beaten South Africa.
6. If Scotland does not win by such a margin, then South Africa will finish top on points difference and Scotland second on the head-to-head rule.
7. Ireland will guarantee the top spot if they secure two points from their match against Scotland.

@king365ed
@rugby365com

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