Loose Pass

Date published: July 17 2012

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with official calls, payoffs, acts of rank stupidity and an old rugby adage…

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with official calls, payoffs, acts of rank stupidity and an old rugby adage…

Is it just us, just the heightened intensity of the contexts or has the officiating in Super Rugby nosedived the past couple of weeks?

The Rebels and Lions were both understandably frustrated by a number of decisions which went against them, with even Stirling Mortlock – not often one to speak out – feeling compelled to bemoan his team's miserable luck against the whistle in Cape Town.

Across the globe and the Chiefs have managed to keep admirably quiet in the face of definitely one, probably two, atrocious TMO decisions which have derailed their campaign. Bryce Lawrence's appalling call last week in Hamilton was a shocker every bit on a par with those he condemned South Africa with at the World Cup, and there were many mutterings in Wellington on Friday about TMO Mike Fraser's lack of a definitive view of the 'Canes' winning try.

It had fewer repercussions, but how any TMO worth his salt could possibly conceive of allowing Israel Dagg's opening try against the Force was beyond most observers.

Meanwhile in Durban, the Cheetahs were left floundering by an inexplicable miss of a knock-on by both referee and touch judge, leading to a key try, while a Sonny Bill Williams tackle that came close to being a bona fide clothes-lining of Cory Jane was casually glossed over by the touch judge.

That's too many critical mistakes in so few games. Far too many. We've long preached that referees are not perfect, but it is too much to expect TMOs, with all the benefits of slow-mo video, varied angles, as much time as they like to consider and possibly even a rule-book to hand, should be hitting the nail on the head every single time?

While on that subject of bad decisions, how about two awful tackles the officials did manage to pick up, one from Quade Cooper, the other from Ben May.

May's indiscretion seemed almost personal, given the lapse in time between the tackle and the departure of the ball from SBW's hands, but at least May can sit back and reflect that it will not cost his side in the off-season.

Quade Cooper's was just rank idiocy. With the Reds having fought so hard from a desperate injury crisis and burgled a play-off spot, for Cooper to do what he did when he did is close to unforgivable. He will now pay the price, watching from the sidelines as his team squares up to the Sharks next Saturday.

Ewen McKenzie may choose to discipline him further, he may not, but either way, it's an unwanted disciplinary blight on Cooper who had managed to keep his act clean for so long.

So the Southern Kings have not been bought out of Super Rugby next year, and we still have to wait for the unscheduled extraordinary meeting to find out exactly how SARU intend to sort out the ludicrous mess they have contrived to create, trying to fit six franchises into five spots.

The whole disgraceful episode thus drags on and on… wouldn't it be great if someone did have ZAR40m and just put an end to the charade once and for all?

Finally, it's an old maxim, but one that will never be invalid: attack wins you the games, defence wins you the championships.

There is very little now standing in the way of the Stormers and a Super Rugby title. The Chiefs, a pleasure to watch, have lost their way a bit – with a little help from the TMO – while of the others in the play-offs, you'd only back the Crusaders to possibly travel to Newlands and grab a win.

Two losing bonus points in 16 matches, not once have they scored four tries in victory. But they sure as hell can defend… and they say Super Rugby is the most open and enthralling competition in rugby!

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson