Watson: ‘Joubert’s no cheat’

André Watson says he is disappointed by the remarks made about Craig Joubert after the Super 14 final and backs the referee’s performance with statistics.

The Bulls beat the Stormers 25-17 in Soweto on Saturday and lifted their third Super Rugby title. However, in the aftermath, there wasn’t much attention given to what the Bulls did right to secure their second successive championship or where the Stormers faulted. Most of the focus was on Joubert’s handling of the game.

Many pundits felt Joubert was one-sided in the final, which gave the Bulls an unfair advantage. Even Stormers captain Schalk Burger criticised Joubert saying: ‘I was unhappy with his decisions at the breakdown. I wouldn’t come out and say so unless I felt something was wrong. He’d coach one team at the breakdown and then penalise the other.’

However, Saru manager of referees André Watson believes Joubert had a good game.

‘I felt that Craig did very well. There were some mistakes made, but that’s normal. Everybody on the field will commit errors, from the players to the referees,’ Watson told keo.co.za.

‘People are calling Craig a cheat. They are saying there were two sets of law interpretations applied and that Craig backed the Bulls. That’s not the case at all. If rugby people are blaming the referee, then it’s a sad day for rugby.

‘There were 167 tackles/rucks in the final. The Stormers made 85 and the Bulls 82. The Stormers were penalised six times at the tackle point and the Bulls seven times. The Stormers were also spoken to on 25 occasions and the Bulls 28 occassions, so there was no case of one team getting coached and the other penalised. Craig also never repeated himself after warning a player, so no one got second chances.

‘No one is focusing on the missed tackles, the poor kicks or what the Bulls did right. I’m disappointed by the articles published and what people are saying. It was a great occasion at Orlando Stadium and this was not needed.’

Many pundits have also questioned Joubert’s selection ahead of Jonathan Kaplan (the world’s most capped Test referee and widely acknowledged to be the best in the world) for the final. Watson said everybody was happy with Joubert’s selection.

‘Craig’s appointment was made by Sanzar. He was the best referee in the Super 14. Most of the teams rated him highly. Both the Bulls and the Stormers were also happy with him being in charge.’

Watson added that Joubert’s performance will be reviewed.

‘After every match, we go through the referee’s performance with him. There are on average 625 incidents in a game and we go through all of them with the respective official. After that, we discuss if the decision was right or wrong and this helps with the referee’s development.’

By Gareth Duncan