National Manager of South African Referees Andre Watson rejects the idea that any referee would purposefully favour a team.
He was responding to the comments of Saru president Oregan Hoskins who today launched a scathing attack on Australian and New Zealand referees.
“When mistakes are made they are usually bona fide,” Watson told keo.co.za. “But for some reason those four or five mistakes always works against us [South African teams]. Even so, I don’t think it’s done with any malice.
“People have to understand that referees are professionals and their performance is scrutinised in the most intricate way by an independent assessor, the IRB and SANZAR,” he explained.
“Mistakes happen,” he added. “And it is always the referees aim to eliminate the amount of mistakes, but to say this one is bias and that one is rubbish is not right.
“There is definitely a difference between bias and mistakes, and if you are biased you won’t have a career.”
Watson also called for a more tempered approach from Hoskins.
The Saru boss was responding to Wallaby coach John Connolly’s assessment of leading South African referee, Jonathan Kaplan, following his side’s 32-12 loss against New Zealand in Christchurch.
Connolly called Kaplan “a waste of time” which triggered Hoskins’ outburst.
“Mr. Connolly is opening up a can of worms because, if we have to start looking at Australian and New Zealand referees then he should be careful,” he told Stephen Nell of the Cape Times.
“Australia and New Zealand have to look at their referees when it comes to games involving South Africa,” he added.
“There is a genuine bias against South African teams.”
Watson, who officiated in 27 Tests, two of those World Cup finals, sprung to the defense of Kaplan when asked about the validity of Connolly’s criticism.
“He [Connolly] is so far off the mark there it’s just not funny,” he said.
“I always tell critics to give me the exact incident and time that it happened but he continues to shoot his mouth off and doesn’t think before he speaks and he can’t back it up.
“I watched that game and saw the assessors report, which was very good. Jonathan made a mistake or two but nothing that affected the outcome of the match.”
He also brushed off the conspiracy theorists who believe that the Australasian referees have formed an alliance that aims to sabotage South African teams.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he asserted. “I sit in SANZAR meetings with these guys and I can tell you that they hardly even like each other.
“We need to move past this this constant finger pointing at refs, and the only time it’ll stop in this country is when we start winning.
“It’s the same everywhere, when your team wins, it’s quiet but when you lose you get the critics coming out of the woodwork.”
By Ryan Vrede