Siya Kolisi wants Springbok consultant to help with ‘how you speak to ref’

South Africa captain Siya Kolisi during the South Africa training session held at Hamiltons Rugby Club in Cape Town on 28 February 2023 © Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

South Africa captain Siya Kolisi during the South Africa training session held at Hamiltons Rugby Club in Cape Town on 28 February 2023 © Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Published Mar 2, 2023


Cape Town - After a tumultuous few years, the Springboks are trying to avoid “off-thefield battles” between their coaches and match officials ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, has been suspended twice by World Rugby in recent years for his criticism of match officials.

The first incident related to Australian referee Nic Berry, who was in charge of the opening Bok Test against the British & Irish Lions in 2021.

Then came last November’s European tour, where Erasmus – who had just completed a match-day ban – posted a series of videos relating to decisions during the Ireland and France games.

The discussions around the French Test led to online threats against English referee Wayne Barnes and his family, and that resulted in Erasmus being prevented from being part of the Bok set-up on the match-days against Italy and England.

The last thing that the South Africans need in the defence of their title in France in September and October is the wrath of the referees, and now they are hoping to change their narrative and image by appointing a consultant.

Wales’ Nigel Owens has been mentioned as a possible candidate, but whomever SA Rugby appoint will hopefully create a more positive view of the Boks.

“If we can get someone who is an expert in the business of the match officials, it is something that we have discussed as coaches. I think it will really help us as coaches, so that we can focus on making our team better,” assistant coach Mzwandile Stick said this week.

“We don’t really want it to be between the coaches and the match officials. We must also respect the fact that rugby is about the players …

“We know that the refs are the CEOs, so if we can get someone on our side who can advise and help us, it will be good for the game – and then the coaches can stay away from those offthe-field battles between the coaching staff and the match officials.

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“I don’t think we will be the first team – France also has someone who is assisting them with the reffing stuff (2019 World Cup final referee Jerome Garces).”

Bok captain Siya Kolisi has also had a few run-ins – not of his own doing – with match officials on the pitch, with Erasmus notably taking umbrage at how the loose forward was treated differently by Berry at the Cape Town Stadium in the first Lions series compared to visiting skipper Alun Wyn Jones.

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Kolisi said ahead of the second Lions Test: “I didn’t feel respected at all, I didn’t feel a fair – I was given a fair opportunity … I didn’t get given the same access to the referee, and there’s proof.”

Now the Boks will hope that things do change for the better ahead of the World Cup – and it won’t be the first time that the world champions have a ref expert in their set-up, as Peter de Villiers brought in experienced local referee Neville Heilbron during his tenure as a “rugby laws advisor”.

“I think it would be great to get somebody that can help us, who works directly with World Rugby to come and address us,” Kolisi said this week.