Saturday 5 August was a day rugby only knew one colour, and it was RED.
62 000 supporters arrived at Emirates Airline Park to witness the much anticipated Super Rugby Final between the competition’s two best teams, the Emirates Lions and now eight-time Champions, Crusaders.
Much of the week’s build-up conversations were around Jaco Peyper and his officials who was appointed to manage the big occasion. Most of the talk was sparked after some interesting calls were made during the Lions’ semi-final clash against the Hurricanes the week before, which seemed to have favoured the home team more than the visitors had hoped for.
However, the most interesting fact was when it was made public that teams had been requested to vote for the best referee ahead of the finals series and unanimously Peyper was voted as the number one by most.
We personally have felt for years that SANZAAR needs to bring in Northern hemisphere referees for the playoffs as that would eliminate any favouritism in any way or form. Having had this conversation over many braais in the past and recently, the outcome has always been unanimous in favour of such a call but we are not the powers that be.
Everyone was well aware that depending on the outcome of the match some reaction was going to be made by either team or their supporters as that is the nature of the beast in having a non-neutral handle a match of this magnitude.
And so it happened…
With around two minutes to go before the halftime break, hometown hero Kwagga Smith had his worst possible rugby moment to date.
Now, many have spent hours arguing whether the red card was the correct call or not. Many have argued that the refs had spoiled the game. Many have even gone as far as saying that a red card sanction needs to be revised by allowing another player to replace the carded player. All-in-all it is simple and rules are rules and players and teams are all very well aware of these rules as explained here by World Rugby in Law 10.4(i).
In the following clip one simply needs to listen to Joel Stransky and Justin Marshall along with the on-field discussion between Peyper and his TMO, Marius Jonker, to understand the situation.
For us supporters who love the game so dearly it will always be about emotion more than anything else and this is where the problem of referees comes into play. Sometimes we need to understand that a referee has a duty towards his employers and even more so the two teams involved, and as we all know by now, World Rugby has made huge efforts to make the game safer for all who play it and why not?
Have a look at this incident which happened in 2016 and once again listen carefully to the commentators and officials.
Are we as supporters that blood thirsty that we would be willing to see players break their necks and never play again for a mere trophy or will we allow the powers that be to make laws that ensure we get to see these players we adore be safe and continue to ply their trade for many years to come?
Yes, some of the laws have softened the game we all grew up to love as a game for real men and we can all agree that some of these need to be relooked but when it comes to someone’s welfare then we all have to take a step back and support the efforts of those in the know.
Reflecting on what happened at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday 5 August 2017, we have to agree that Jaco Peyper and his team had a better game than the week before and we should salute them for making sure no questions needed to be asked afterwards.
To Kwagga Smith we want to say, head up Champ, you played your heart out all season and on Saturday and your Green & Gold jumper is waiting for you sooner than you can even imagine.
And last but certainly not the least, congrats to Sam Whitelock and his Crusaders who have done the almost impossible by winning the Southern hemisphere’s most coveted trophy away from home and against all odds.