We were really hard done by
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee added his voice to the growing chorus of outcries against the declining standards of refereeing.
Coetzee, in his post-season assessment after the team's 30-13 victory over he Bulls at Newlands at the weekend, pulled no punches - despite his team already having being fined once this season in a stand-off with officialdom.
Coetzee said he felt there were two matches in which questionable calls from match official cost his team - defeats which ultimately cost them a place in the Super Rugby play-offs.
The Stormers finished the season in seventh place, just four points short of the Cheetahs in sixth.
They also finished the season with five consecutive victories and have beaten five of the six teams in the play-offs.
But a couple of results on their Australasian tour cost them dearly, especially after they were slapped with a fine of AU$25,000 (about ZAR228,450) for misconduct and bringing the game into disrepute - in the wake of claims from New Zealander Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri (an assistant referee in their game against he Hurricanes) that he was subjected to abusive language.
Coetzee's latest verbal barrage against match officials came on a weekend which also saw Blues coach John Kirwan and Waratahs mentor Michael Cheika launch scathing attacks on referees.
An incensed Kirwan demanded referee Chris Pollock be held accountable for his ruling in a red-card controversy which he said ruined their Super Rugby match against the Chiefs at the weekend.
And Cheika has joined his colleagues in taking aim at the poor standard of refereeing in Super Rugby, suggesting they are turning the game into 'touch rugby' - with Steve Walsh the target of his scolding.
Earlier in the season former All Black coach Graham Henry, who is now a Blues assistant coach, was let off with a reprimand and an agreement to issue a public apology - having labelled fellow Kiwi Keith Brown a "blind TMO".
The growing number of coaches crying out against referees and other match officials suggest the problem needs to be addressed urgently.
While Coetzee described his team's win over the Bulls as a "very satisfying victory", he felt they could have gotten so much more reward for their efforts had it not been for the influence of match officials.
"I must say that, and I am not shy to say that, two games we were unlucky and poor decisions made by the referees that actually cost us a position in the play-offs," Coetzee said.
"I never blame referees, but [there were] two games in which we were really hard done by and that is how the season panned out," he said of his team's seventh-placed finish.
He admitted that at the start of the season the Stormers didn't play the best of rugby.
"I'm just pleased that we could turn things around," he said of his team's five-match winning streak at the end of the season.
Before that they had just four wins from 11 starts, which included the two matches in which he felt they were hard done by.
"The last five games we worked to get it right, we wanted five [wins] from five [matches] after the [Australasian] tour and we achieved that," Coetzee said.
"It [the win over the Bulls] was an outstanding performance from the team, especially the things we worked on. It was great to see the players carry that out on the field."
Asked if the five-match winning streak will help Western Province take some momentum forward, into the Currie Cup, he said it was important in setting them up.
"It was important to get certain areas of our game right," Coetzee said, adding: "Our scrum was, yet again, very good - our set piece was unbelievable and even the breakdown was outstanding.
"Those are the things we will focus on going forward and make sure we execute."
By Jan de Koning