French referees - Jerome Garces - are notorious for their howlers. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

DURBAN – Last week Rassie Erasmus pretty crudely made the point through the media that he expected short shrift from Jerome Garces, a referee that inexplicably gets appointed for massive Test matches and consistently either misses obvious indiscretions or panics and makes a hash of big calls.

The French referees are notorious for their howlers. Who can forget Garces’ clone, Roman Poite, sending off Bismarck du Plessis for a brutal but totally fair tackle on Dan Carter in what was a knee-jerk reaction; just a few weeks ago Scott Barrett was red carded by Garces against the Wallabies for an iffy tackle that was a yellow at best (or worst).

Garces was the referee when the Boks lost to Japan in Brighton in the 2015 World Cup opener. In that game - while we should never take anything from Japan’s achievement - Garces got swept up by the stirring occasion and allowed the Japanese to live offside.

And on Saturday Garces gave the Boks a reprieve when, despite, looking at big screen replays, he failed to sin bin Makazole Mapimpi for blatantly diving on the ball and smothering it to prevent the All Blacks from scoring.

Kieran Read was prompted to call it a “gutless” call. If the All Blacks had scored seven-points from that one (they got three instead) their lead would have been just about unassailable.

I am sure these Frenchmen don’t cheat. Of course they don’t, but like Erasmus pointed out last week, they get intimidated by the classy teams or are just simply not good enough, and this suggests that the real villain of the piece is World Rugby for continuing to appoint referees that consistently mar big occasions with amateurish decisions.

All of that said, I do think that South Africans have a victim mentality when it comes to referees and that is counter-productive to zero in on incompetent officials. Players get sucked into the “we’re so hard done by” thing and it deflects from their own very real failings in the game.

Other teams also get frustrated but the sooner you move on from something you can’t control, the sooner and better you can fix your own shortcomings, which you can to an extent control.

I mean Rassie knew Garces was useless, pointed it out last week and called for fairness and, you know what? Garces was still useless on Saturday and probably will be again in his next outing.

South Africa’s coach Rassie Erasmus speaks during a press conference in Urayasu, near Tokyo, ahead of their match against New Zealand. Photo: Kyodo News via AP

On Saturday, the Boks have Poite against Namibia and the massive gulf in class between the teams will more than compensate for anything the referee dishes up, but the Boks have to get over their fixations with referees once they move on to the tougher games in the tournament.

Just one thing that seems to have been forgotten from this last game because of the furore over the ref was a simple error from Handre Pollard in nailing the upright from pretty much in front of the posts. If he hasn’t lost concentration, things possibly could have been a bit different. 

It was a major momentum shift. The Boks could have been 6-0 up but a few minutes later were 17-3 down.

@MikeGreenaway67


The Mercury

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