Bryce Lawrence says he won’t officiate in South Africa next season if his personal safety is under threat.
Since Lawrence’s controversial performance in the Wallabies’ 11-9 quarter-final win over the Springboks at the World Cup, the Kiwi referee has been critcized for his handling of the breakdown by South African players, fans and media.
Retired Springbok captain John Smit said: ‘The one positive of retirement is that I won’t ever have to be reffed by him again’. Even Saru manager of referees Andre Watson slammed Lawrence’s performance, saying the New Zealander won’t officiate at a future World Cup as he would be severely admonished by the IRB.
A Facebook campaign titled ‘Petition To Stop Bryce Lawrence Ever Reffing A Rugby Game Again’ set up a platform for public abuse to be directed at Lawrence, while 94.7 Highveld Stereo radio station’s Darren ‘Whackhead’ Simpson has claimed to have prank called him in the middle of the night.
Speaking to Tony Veitch on Radiosport, Lawrence said he is aware of the threat of refereeing in South Africa during Super Rugby next year.
‘I’m not totally concerned. I know a lot of other people like the New Zealand Rugby Union and SANZAR do have some serious concerns,’ Lawrence said. ‘In all honesty, I’m not going to go over there if there’s any personal threat or I have concerns about my safety because in the end it’s a job. I know that, and also it’s just a sport so I’m not going to put myself at risk.’
‘I refereed the [Super Rugby] final last year,’ he continued. ‘I’ve refereed a lot of play-off games so that level is something I’m more than capable of refereeing. I’ll referee South African teams in Super Rugby, it may be in Australia or New Zealand that I referee them and I’m sure the criticism will resurface every time I do referee them.’
Lawrence admitted that he always thinks back to his performance in the Wallabies/Bok quarter-final fixture.
‘It hasn’t been the greatest four or six weeks of my life…in all honesty there isn’t a day goes by even now that I don’t think about what I could have done better and how it’s affecting me and what it means for me going forward. It’s still very fresh and probably pretty raw really,’ he said.
‘I was disappointed with some aspects in my own performance that day after refereeing four really pretty strong games in pool play. I’m not blaming anyone for the quarterfinal refereeing display apart from myself. I didn’t referee as well as I could.
‘I was pretty relaxed going into that game, and Australia/South Africa I have refereed numerous times in the last few years at Tri-Nations level so the game didn’t scare me or concern me. I just think I went away from what I’m best at. I’m best when I’m pretty decisive and reasonably technical and tactical – and I just went too much down the tactical side of things where I was really trying to minimise making technical errors.
‘I got criticised heavily and some of that I accept because I know I could have done better.’
Lawrence added that he has been punished by being left out of the Six Nations.
‘Look, there have been some pretty clear consequences from my quarterfinal display. I’m not going to be refereeing Six Nations next year, they can say that means I’m rested but in reality I accept that one of the consequences of my performance is that I’m not going to be doing Six Nations.
‘That’s disappointing from a personal level but also something that I probably support. Referees often get criticised and not held accountable – well I’m clearly being held accountable I’m not refereeing Six Nations.’
Meanwhile, Sanzar CEO Greg Peters told Eyewitness News they have not expressed any concerns regarding Lawrence’s safety in South Africa. Peters explained that he consulted their legal advisors and said the Lawrence safety saga has not been discussed within Sanzar.