There has not been a peep from the Pietermaritzburg referee since he blew the whistle on Scotland’s World Cup challenge and legged it off the field with indecent haste, but yesterday there was a voice of comfort from none other than the chief benefactor of the incorrect decision to penalise Scotland in the last minute of the game.
Running off the pitch at the end of Scotland v Australia was not a smart move by Craig Joubert.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, his get-out-of-jail-free card still tucked in his back pocket as he prepares his team to play Argentina on Saturday when he could so easily have been back in Sydney, savaged the World Cup authorities for hanging Joubert out to dry with their statement yesterday that the referee had got it wrong, and that instead of awarding Australia a (match-winning) penalty, he should have given them a set scrum.
Cheika, a coach with a long history of clashes with rugby administrators, reckons it is wrong that an example has been made of Joubert.
“It is so unfair,” said Cheika. “I genuinely feel for the ref. No other referee has his stuff put out like that. I have never seen that before. I am not sure why that decision had to be publicly reviewed. I would have liked my mates to back me up, if you know what I mean. We talk about this game having the right principles and all of that …
“Otherwise, we make a list (of errors). I don’t know of Samoa have list including a little knock-on before Scotland scored at the end of their match, or must every team send in their grievances,” the indignant Cheika continued. “It is just a bit surprising because no other decision in the tournament has been reviewed.
“Will it help us bring the next generation of referees come through? “Not really. I just hope his fellow referees stand by him because, well, actually I had better not say any more otherwise I will be in trouble again.”
But Cheika did save a salvo for the former players that have castigated Joubert, including former England scrumhalf Matt Dawson and Gavin Hastings.
“Unfortunately, people have taken the game off the field and got quite personal about it. Supposedly, these are important people in the game that are making their living through commentary and stuff like that…”
Springbok wing Bryan Habana said he felt sorry for Joubert but stopped short of defending him.
““It is difficult. Craig has helped us out a lot in the past four years but unfortunately the circumstances that happened on Saturday we have no control over. Unfortunately the decisions that he made have been brought under the microscope but for me, personally, the standard of refereeing in the tournament has been generally of a high standard,” he said
“We feel for Craig in a way but that is something we can’t comment on, it’s a decision we didn’t make and a decision that we weren’t a part of. We were there in 2011 (when blown out of the game by Bryce Lawrence) so we know how Scotland feel. There might be one or two messages sent to Craig but for us what is important now is the match coming up this Saturday against the All Blacks,” said Habana.
There will be lot of sympathy for Joubert in him getting a difficult decision wrong but, more than anything, people want to hear from Joubert as to why he ran like hell for the change rooms.
By Mike Greenaway
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