Advice for refs from above

Wed, 08 Aug 2012 09:30
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As the Currie Cup draws near, the men who look after how refereeing is done in South Africa and abroad have sent out their advice to referees to make refereeing even better than it is.

As the Currie Cup draws near, the men who look after how refereeing is done in South Africa and abroad - André Watson, Tappe Henning and Mark Lawrence - have sent out their advice to referees to make refereeing even better than it is. This is what they have to say.

Having watched as many as possible games during the past six months, we would like to highlight the following. It is imperative that the referees’ attention is brought to these matters as we need to fix the “Klein jakkalsies” in the Currie Cup season.


Again we would like to reiterate that this aspect is improved if referees talk to individual players and not just the captain two or three times during a match. This is especially true at the beginning of the match. Telling a player quietly why he has been penalised -- or more importantly -- why he was NOT penalised is a very potent management tool. Quietly and in “down-time” telling a player to be careful because of an “almost” late tackle or dangerous tackle is a powerful preventative measure and will always be appreciated by players. This is also very helpful in establishing and retaining control and discipline in a game.


Be economical with your cards. They always have an effect on the game. When there is no other way to punish transgressions, sure, show the card, but always ask yourself whether in the context of the game this is really necessary. Have you done everything you should before coming to this moment?

The player receiving the card will always be in the spotlight, but so is the referee.

A valuable “tool” in the tool box when used wisely. Cards should never be given when the referee loses patience or gets frustrated. Use cards if penalties aren’t changing player behaviour. Having said that, don’t wait until the 70th minute. This should be sorted out in the first half, when setting standards in your game.


Referees should always strive to be not too technical or pedantic, but laws must be correctly applied. There is no excuse for overlooking commonly occurring mistakes and infringements by players.

The kick-off is an example -- we would venture to state that at least eighty percent of kick-offs are kicked from over the halfway line, and everybody sees this! It probably has little effect on the game, but Law 13.1 (a) clearly states that the kick-off must be taken at or behind the middle of the halfway line. There is absolutely no reason why this should not be adhered to and overlooking it is simply sloppy refereeing. How far will you allow a player to step across the line before acting on it?

There is no need to make a big show of these incidents. Proper management will resolve the problem -- just quietly tell the kicker to kick behind the line and if he keeps on stepping across, then order a scrum and next time he will make sure that he does it correctly!

Before kick off, remind the kicker to kick the ball behind the line …. A good example of management and preventative refereeing


Taking players out away from the ball or the tackle, and sometimes at the ruck or maul, must be penalised. If the referee’s position is correct at these situations, he should have no problem in picking up these offences.

Referee position is key to picking these up and assistant referees need to made aware of this to assist the referee if he misses it.


The line-out, like the scrum, is a set piece and should be set up with the same care. Make sure everything is correct and according to law before the ball is thrown in. “Going back” to check whether everything is satisfactory is not good refereeing and only causes unnecessary delay due to your interfering. Get it right the first time!!


At times we wonder whether referees know the definition of a knock-on. Some of the handling lapses that are blown as knock-ons are really by no stretch of the imagination a knock-on. The ball should after all at least go forward in the direction of the opponents' deadball line, not backwards or down and forward off the ground. The ground does not knock on!

A missed catch is not a knock-on. If the ball goes right through the player’s arms and forward off his body, surely that is not a knock-on. Show some guts and allow play to continue!

The same for a forward pass. Stop blowing for forward catches. Judge the hands and the flight of the ball a metre out of the hands. With good communication and signalling, players and coaches will understand. Now let’s ALL show some Guts! This is where the referee can assist the flow of the game without opting out of law!


Often the defender dives onto the try-scorer after the try has already been scored. This is very dangerous play and can cause serious injury. The referees should take strict action against these offenders. A penalty and at least a warning should be awarded in all cases. In cases where there is foul or malicious action a card should be considered. Assistant referees must also be aware of this offence and be on the look-out when a try is scored and sometimes also when the ball is made dead.


The sealing off issue has been almost eradicated from the game however, this does not mean that there is no room for improvement. I would like to re- affirm the following:

• Tackler to get away and afford the ball carrier the opportunity to exercise his option unhindered.
• Flooding at the tackle is still an issue and I believe even coached is certain instances!
• We need to get the height of the BD higher and the referees are to ensure that players arrive and stay on their feet – except for a legal low clean out of course. The height is the picture the referee needs to see!


• Pre and post engagement management and decision making requires a lot of attention.
• Pre: The engagement and the owning of the 4 calls and insisting on the 4 actions.
• Post: Insisting on correct continuous binding and legitimate angles.
• A tendency of flankers sliding onto their props to assist in scrummaging "double" onto opposition props was observed and appeared more often than before.
• Clear and obvious remains the criteria to be applied for infringements - the consequence of it - followed by the required decision making - manage/advantage/penalise.

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