Ref to root out thugs

Referee Stuart Dickinson won’t tolerate any off-the-ball scuffles when the Springboks host the Lions at Ellis Park.

Dickinson met with the coaching staff of both teams on Thursday, and a big point of discussion was the amount of pushing and shoving after the whistle had gone. The second Test was especially brutal, and often more than three players got involved in an unnecessary barney.

Lions assistant coach Warren Gatland said this kind of thing has no place in the game, a view he said is shared by his South African counterparts. At Ellis Park on Saturday, there should be far fewer incidents.

‘The referee won’t tolerate any off-the-ball incidents,’ he told keo.co.za. ‘A lot of pushing and a lot of verbals after the whistle has been evident in both Tests thus far. It’s not a good advertisement for the game.

‘We want a hard and physical contest, but this off-the-ball stuff we can do with out.’

Gatland said he sympathised with the South Africans who have expressed their disappointment with the suspension of Bakkies Botha. The Bok lock cleared Adam Jones from a ruck but was cited for illegal play. Gatland told Peter de Villiers and Gary Gold he felt it was a shocking call.

‘We had no problem with Bakkies’s clearance, Adam had not problem with the clearance and I thought it was a tough decision. Maybe it’s because Bakkies does have a history of not using his arms, but on that occasion, there was nothing wrong with the challenge.

‘I know [IRB referee chief] Paddy O’Brien disagreed with the decision and it is something the IRB will have to look at, as there are 50 instances [such as Botha's perfectly legitimate clearance] in any given game.’

Gatland said he expects another intensely physical battle on Saturday and is confident his charges will meet the challenge head-on. Another defeat means a 3-0 whitewash, a result Gatland believes won’t reflect a competitive series.

‘We’ve won a lot of respect on this tour so we can’t let it go down the tubes now. If we don’t front physically, we are in trouble.

‘Four years ago the Lions lost the first two Tests [to the All Blacks] and then took 50 points in the third. So much has been gained on this tour that the individual players can take back to their home nations, but it’s not over yet. We have to finish on a high.’

By Jon Cardinelli, in Johannesburg