A prominent sports professor has challenged the International Rugby Board (IRB) to launch an investigation into the Rugby World Cup quarter-final between South Africa and Australia, saying the match was “bent” with a “predetermined outcome before kick- off”.
Professor Tim Noakes, head of the University of Cape Town’s Exercise and Sports Science Department, said in a hard-hitting interview that it was the IRB’s duty to provide a detailed response on the actions of referee Bryce Lawrence, who failed to issue a number of penalties in Sunday’s match.
Noakes said he did not want to sensationalise anything but the South African public needed to know the truth about what lay behind the lack of decision by Lawrence.
“When science is manipulated to produce a predetermined outcome, it’s called ‘bent’ science. Such science is usually directed by large commercial interests. When the outcome of a sporting event is predetermined, we call it ‘match fixing’,” Noakes said in a letter to the Cape Times.
In an interview on Thursday, he said: “I am not saying that there was match-fixing, I am saying the IRB must prove there wasn’t.”
Noakes said the referee’s inability to penalise illegal actions in at least three areas of the game could only be interpreted in one way – “that he (Lawrence) was benefiting personally by ensuring that the Wallabies would win the bent rugby match, the outcome of which was predetermined even before the kick-off”.
One of the actions not penalised was at the breakdown, in which Australian flank David Pocock put his hands in the ruck, which is not allowed.
There was also a neck charge and high tackle which should have led to yellow cards being issued, Noakes said. No cards were issued during the match.
“I think an injustice has been done and South Africa as a nation deserves the truth. There was something wrong with that game, it seems it was predetermined and the question is who is benefiting from it,” Noakes said.
Andrè Watson, South African Rugby Union (Saru) referees manager, said: “I have no doubt that the IRB will deal with this matter, and that all the details will come out after the World Cup is completed. I have trust in the system, and that it will be handled.
“Bryce Lawrence did make many mistakes during the game, and he just didn’t ref the breakdown. He refused to make decisions in that area.”
Former Springbok captain Corné Krige said while he agreed that Lawrence had made “a lot of mistakes” he didn’t think the controversy should carry on. Instead, he said the rules governing the ruck should be simplified.
“The IRB should clear up the rules of the ruck because there has always been a grey area. There is one rule that says if you are the first player in the ruck, you can touch the ball but other players can’t. If someone touches the ball and is tackled, it all happens in milliseconds, so you either allow hands in the ruck or not at all. But I don’t think we should carry on about it. The players are hamstrung. Rather look at the rules of the game and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Krige said.
Noakes said the IRB could not ignore the game and had to launch an inquiry by an independent panel to explain the decisions not to grant penalties.
“I absolutely think the result would’ve been different. South Africa were the better team by 15 points, they would have absolutely won. They didn’t help their cause because they did mess up six scoring opportunities, but the nature of the game is once you are ahead you can open up and win.
“They were peaking perfectly and their fitness levels were ideal. That’s what makes this so unfortunate and makes the tournament illegitimate. The winner will know that they did not play one of the best teams in the tournament if not the best.”
Saru president Oregan Hoskins and chief executive Jurie Roux are in New Zealand and could not respond to Noakes’s letter on Thursday due to the 11-hour time-difference.
A Saru spokesperson told the Cape Times that it “would not be appropriate” for Springbok coach Peter de Villiers or captain John Smit to comment on the letter.
Noakes, however, said that he did not think a rematch would change anything: “The intensity won’t be the same, the moment is gone.” - Cape Times