Vodacom Super 14 final ref Craig Joubert reviews his performance exclusively for BOKzine readers; explains why Orlando is better than Twickenham; how he manages having to make a decision every four seconds; how to spot hinging and why he is haunted by Christmas pudding.
Where you expecting to get the final?
On performance any one of five or six referees could just have easily refereed the final. I felt like I had a consistent season and was proud to be in this group.
How would you describe your refereeing style – if there is such a thing?
My philosophy is that the players are the entertainers and we are merely there to facilitate an environment in which they can display their considerable skills. My style is to referee the clear and obvious infringements in trying to create this environment.
Compare the atmosphere at the Orlando Stadium to other big matches you’re refereed?
Quite unique! I've been fortunate to referee at some of the world’s greatest stadiums and can honestly say that the atmosphere at the Orlando Stadium exceeded that which I have experienced at Stade de France, Twickenham, the Millennium Stadium, Croke Park or Stadium Australia. Although these stadiums are twice the size of the Orlando Stadium, the raw emotion of a Vodacom Super 14 Final between South Africa's oldest rivals and with 40,000 vuvuzelas to boot, created an extraordinary atmosphere, the likes of which I doubt I'll ever experience again.
Did the vuvuzela chorus affect performance in the game – ie no one was able to hear anyone else?
I allowed both teams to hold mini "conferences" prior to every line out which is not encouraged generally but which I thought sensible since it would have been unreasonable to expect the players to be able to hear line out codes. The noise on the field was deafening, I had to turn my ear piece down from its usual volume as the noise from the vuvuzelas coming directly into my ear was just incredible.
Have you reviewed the game? How do you think you did?
I have reviewed the game extensively. Despite what certain sections would emotionally like to believe, I'm comfortable and satisfied that I stayed true to my philosophy and that is to allow the players to entertain while refereeing clear and obvious infringements. I worked hard at correctly identifying arriving players who have rights to contest for possession and allowed that contest.
What criticism have those talking and writing about the game got most wrong?
That I refereed two different sets of laws or that I coached one team and penalised the other. Andre Watson spent five hours on Monday morning analysing all 167 tackles in the game. The Stormers carried the ball 85 times and the Bulls 82 times. At these tackle situations, the Stormers were penalised six times to the Bulls' seven. I spoke to the Stormers 25 times, and the Bulls 28. That is 31% of the time for the Stormers and 33% for the Bulls. These statistics demonstrate a different view of the game to that as painted by the critics - a factual view.
You issued instructions at 53 tackle/rucks but never once repeated an order – unlike some refs – is that always your operating procedure?
It is something I have worked very hard at. The players quickly work out that if you repeat yourself they can get an extra few precious seconds to slow down the opponent’s ball and take full advantage. Succinct communication is an important aspect of refereeing at any level, swift and decisive action is the only way to change player behaviour.
Seems like you coined the phrase “hinging” at the scrums? And how do you decide who is responsible for it (presuming both props have to go down if one hinges)?
"Hinging" is merely a phrase which talks to a front row players head and shoulders being lower than their hips, which invariably leads to a collapsed scrum. At impact I look to see which prop is hitting straight and which prop is hitting with his head low and his hips in the air. The guy whose head and shoulders are below his hips is said to be "hinging".
Refs have to decide whether to blow the whistle (or not) every four seconds of playing time on average – don’t we need more than one ref on the field?
So much of refereeing at this level is about management and striving for consistency within one guy with the whistle for 80 mins. I'm not convinced that two referees would enhance our constant search for consistency in what is a dynamic environment. The advent of "Assistant referees" and the extension of the extent of their input has been a helpful process.
Teams prepare for referees – do you prepare for teams and if so, why?
We prepare thoroughly for each and every game we referee but it's important not to go into a game with preconceived ideas. I analyse the teams I'm refereeing to try and get an understanding as to how they're likely to play the game and what tactics they're likely to employ. Besides being able to ensure that my running lines are such that I don't get in the way, I'm able to anticipate the shape of the game which means I'm better prepared for likely situations and to referee it accurately.
And if you were researching you, what would you advise players to look out for?
At the breakdown I focus on ensuring that the tackler clears away to ensure that the team in possession of the ball gets the opportunity for quick ball. Arriving players on their feet and through the gate are rewarded for good technique and allowed to compete for the ball within law. I'm open to interaction with a sensible captain. I won't reset scrums countless times and will make decisions there.
Criticism is part of the job – even so, why would anyone want to be referee?
Criticism sometimes hurts, but the sense of satisfaction in contributing to a game of rugby in which 30 of the best rugby players on the planet are playing is special.
What do you most enjoy about the job?
Being involved in the game which I love and having the opportunity to share the field with the best rugby players on the planet.
How do refs maintain their self-belief and confidence after public criticism?
As a passionate Springbok supporter I also know the emotions of watching your team win and lose. I try to keep in the front of my mind that the criticism comes only because there are millions of people out there who are just as passionate about this game as I am and that their passion causes them to react emotionally.
The funniest chirp you’ve been on the end of?
In the opening Vodacom Super 14 game of 2007 in Bloem, I went down with cramps in both my calves with seven minutes to go. I had hoped that I had rather surreptitiously sat down for a bit of a stretch and massage from one of the team physios but unfortunately I had sat down right where Peter Grant was lining up a penalty kick and when he asked me to move the TV director caught me lying prone having both calves attended to. Conrad Janjtes politely suggested that perhaps I had indulged in "too much Christmas pudding!?" I soldiered on and finished the match but the abuse has never ended.
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