Long the most contentious aspect of the game, refereeing interpretations can be crucial.
The Springboks, who kick off their campaign against Japan in Brighton on Saturday, know this better than most after their previous campaign was derailed in this very fashion by a rampaging Australian David Pocock and laissez-faire refereeing from Bryce Lawrence.
The Boks face Japan with Francois Louw as the only specialist fetcher, the Bath captain having established himself as one of the best in the world over the past few seasons.
Louw has no qualms about his responsibility. “The breakdown is obviously a massive area in terms of refereeing,” he said to media on Wednesday. “It’s an interesting area of the game. Things happen in a split second. Great emphasis is placed on us, on individuals, making good decisions there and recognizing what we can do. It’s important to know when it’s your duty to have a go for the ball, when to release, when you’re offside and when you’re not, when to pass through and when not to.
“I think especially in the World Cup it will have a massive influence on the game and could well mean the difference between winning and losing a lot of games. A lot of matches come down to those three pointers and you don’t want to be giving away penalties in the wrong part of the field. At the same time, you want to force them into giving away penalties in the right area.”
The Springboks’ defensive coach, John McFarland, praised the team’s Scottish breakdown coach, Richie Gray.
“We’re always looking at the second effort after the tackle. We’re looking at a guy making a steal or what we call tanking, or counter rucking, walking through; or a guy just getting up off the floor and getting back into the game. So that’s the work that Richie’s doing and our emphasis on that is vital.”
McFarland sounded respectful about Japan, who the Boks will play for the first time ever on Saturday.
“They’ll keep the ball and they’ll come out to try and probe a bit. They try to get kicks in space to bring our wingers and fullback up. They have a guy at fullback (Ayumu Goromaru) who kicks the ball a mile. So we respect their kicking game, but we know they won’t want lineouts or too many set pieces. “
The Springboks wrap up their preparation on Friday with captain’s practice at the Brighton Community Stadium.
– African News Agency (ANA)