It is a little known fact that in New Zealand, there is a book on the rivalry between South Africa and New Zealand that in its records at the back lists results between the countries as pre-neutral referees and results thereafter.
In the olden days, touring countries complained like heck that home town referees influenced results.
In the 1976 series between the All Blacks and the Springboks, the tourists swore blind that they were robbed by referee Gert Bezuidenhout, at the time a school headmaster from Potchefstroom.
As a teenager, I recall watching the New Zealand Cavaliers lose their 1986 series to the Boks in a series decider officiated by Welshman Ken Rowlands.
Okay, he was not South African, but the Kiwis felt that he blew for the home side, to the extent that there is famous footage of hooker Hika Reid jogging off the field at the end of the Springbok triumph and barging into Rowlands while mouthing something into his ear that was clearly not “Happy Christmas”.
Heck, the history of rugby has endless tales of referees allegedly influencing games, and nearly all of them are simply down to subjective viewing of what happened when your team lost.
There are other occasions when you wonder whether the referee conspired against your side.
The 1981 Springboks lost to the All Blacks in one of the great Test matches of all time after Welsh referee Clive Norling repeatedly penalised the Boks way after injury time to eventually put fullback Alan Hewson in kicking range to land a penalty that won his team the match 25-22 and the series 2-1.
The Boks felt cheated. Were they by a referee that got carried away by the Eden Park atmosphere?
Who knows? But I can tell you that France feel Craig Joubert lost them the World Cup final against the All Blacks at Eden Park in 2011.
In fact, a French TV company put together a documentary to “prove” that in the last 15 minutes of the match, the South African referee turned a blind eye to a flood of infringements by the All Blacks as the French pressed home for the victory (won 8-7 by the home side).
The French emphatically felt All Black captain Richie McCaw showed flagrant disregard for the laws of the rucks in the final minutes.
After the match he was hailed as an all-time great New Zealander, while in France, they thought he was an “untouchable” player who, because of his reputation, got away with murder.
In 2007, in the Super 12 final between the Sharks and the Bulls at Kings Park, the Sharks seemed to have the game won going into the final two minutes, but a missed conversion by Frans Steyn after an Albert van den Berg try opened the door for the Bulls to win if they could get a seven-pointer.
They threw everything into those final moments, and while Bulls fans thought they were putting their bodies on the line, Sharks fans thought they were simply cheating, and that referee Steve Walsh (of New Zealand) had got carried away by the drama of the comeback and let everything go, even when Danie Rossouw flung himself over a ruck and stole the ball.
There were about three penalties that he could have incurred in one movement.
Who knows... in any case, the Sharks should have put that game away long before and Walsh should not have been in a position to influence the outcome.
The Sharks blew that game ultimately because they allowed Walsh to not blow anything in the final frantic moments.
Teams should be good enough to not let the referee have a perceived influence either way.
Well, on Saturday we have a South African referee at Ellis Park and Jaco Peyper is, on form, the referee who should get the whistle for the Lions v Crusaders.
But the make-up of the rest of the refereeing panel has me puzzled.
One of the officials rewarded for good officiating is Marius van der Westhuizen, the referee who had both Johan Ackermann and Robert du Preez seething during the quarter-final match at Ellis Park.
He was poor during that game, making mistake after mistake, but never favouring one side.
As it turned out, the Sharks lost the game and while their coaching staff is not allowed to comment on the merits of the referee, you can be certain that eyebrows will be raised at Kings Park that Van der Westhuizen has been promoted to touch-judge status for the final.