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

DURBAN – How about a little general knowledge test about our beloved referees on duty at the Rugby World Cup?

More specifically, what were their day jobs before they switched to making a living out of killing rugby games, Nigel Owens excepted (he’s OK, and so is Jaco Peyper when he is not teasing the French with well-oiled Welshmen)?

Which one used to build helicopters? Who is the corruption and bribery lawyer (I kid you not!) Who is a former police detective? (no it is not Steve Hansen although he is also a former cop on duty in Tokyo) and, the toughest of all, which one is honest?

Alright, the latter is Aussie Angus Gardner who at least had the gumption to admit he made a mistake and should have given the Boks a penalty (for Handre Pollard to kick and win the game) when Owen Farrell shoulder-charged Andre Esterhuizen at the death of last year’s Test at Twickenham.

On the subject of Aussies, I forgot about the other Australia referee at the World Cup, Nic Berry, who played for the Reds, Wasps in England and Racing 92 in Paris before being forced to retire at just 28 because of concussion.

We should have more former players like him turning referee. In fact there is a pretty good one in New Zealand, Glen Jackson, who didn’t crack the nod for the World Cup but the French Mr Bean did ... but that is a story for another day.

Referee Romain Poite shows Samoa's Rey Lee-lo, centre, a yellow card during the Rugby World Cup Pool A game between Russia and Samoa at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium. Photo: AP Photo/Jae Hong

Englishman Wayne Barnes is the corruption lawyer who would never be idle if he emigrated to South Africa (he is retiring after this tournament); Jerome Garces used to build helicopters (real ones, reportedly) and his French countryman, Roman Poite, was a detective in Toulouse.

Speaking of Poite, he was one of Garces’ touch judges in the round one match between the Boks and the All Blacks, so how come his trained eye never spotted all those infringements, such as the Kiwi props placing their hands on the ground to stop them collapsing? Or, to be fair, why did the two not see that it was indeed “gutless”, as Kieran Read put it, to fail to yellow card Makazole Mapimpi for diving on top of the ball to stop the All Blacks from scoring.

Not a word on matters such as these to Garces from Inspector Clouseau

And now we have helicopter man Garces once more for the semi-final A specialist in creating turbulence on and off the field, the Boks have suffered terribly under his watch, winning a paltry four of the 14 Tests he’s officiated.

The truth is Garces can be equally bad for both teams in that for long periods he doesn’t blow anything at all.

His refereeing policy reminds me of the only thing I remember from failing economics at Durban Varsity - Laissez-faire, French for “leave it alone”- which is a good policy if applied to a free market economy but terrible if you are supposed to be enforcing the laws of a rugby game.


The Mercury

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