Columns 5.5.2017 07:03 am

SA rugby’s most recent village idiot

Rugby ball in motion over grass. Thinkstock Images

Rugby ball in motion over grass. Thinkstock Images

When a qualified, experienced match official watches a pass over and over, from different angles and in slow motion, and then gets it wrong, what can one say?

Tradition dictates that every village has its resident idiot. In the global village this still rings true, with the understanding that villages are no longer demarcated by physical boundaries.

In the global political village, for example, there are too many candidates to mention.

Well, on Saturday the rugby village saw referee Johan Greeff – acting as television match official in the clash between the Cheetahs and the Crusaders – snatch the title convincingly.

When a referee has to make a split-second on-field decision and gets it wrong, I have sympathy. What with 30 players covering an area of 5 000 square metres, getting every decision right is almost impossible.

But when a qualified, experienced match official watches a pass over and over, from different angles and in slow motion, and then gets it wrong, what can one say?

Now I’m not sure if the TMO has the benefit of a second opinion from the television commentators. Does the TMO hear their comment or does he only see the images when reviewing decision?

Let’s hope he doesn’t have sound, because the commentators were unanimous that the pass from Ox Nche to Sergeal Petersen was not forward. Obviously, Greeff saw it differently.

The live commentators were supported by a livid analyst and former Springbok player and coach Nick Mallett. Had it not been for Greeff’s shocker, the Cheetahs could have gone into the changing room with the score at 14-15.

But the turnaround in possession led to a Crusaders try and the boys from Bloem were down 7-22 at half time. The game was – to all intents and purposes – over.

One cannot help but wonder how big an influence that one decision had on the game. Would the Cheetahs have been more competitive in the second half if their confidence levels were higher? Would they have opted to kick at goal rather than to the touchline if the scoreline was closer?

Would that have changed the complexion of the contest?

Nobody will ever know.

What we do know, is that Greeff will probably not be the titleholder come Monday. Shocking decisions seem to be a dime a dozen in this year’s Super Rugby series.

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