Following yesterday’s Twickenham encounter between England and New Zealand, a word about the refereeing performance of South Africa’s Craig Joubert.
Folklore has it that the sign of a good refereeing outing is how little the official is noticed, but Joubert has a special place in rugby notoriety as the man who gifted New Zealand their 8-7 victory in the 2011 Rugby World Cup final by his lax response to the All Blacks’ persistent offsides and other infringements, coupled with his strange – not to say contrary – approach to everything that the French attempted.
It could be – and some publicly have – said that, in that place, on that day, the better team (France) was simply not allowed to win.
There have been numerous critiques of Joubert’s inconsistent refereeing in that final since – for a typical example, see here (YouTube) – ANALYSIS
However, that is now in the past. Yesterday I felt that Joubert was outstanding – a conclusion that was greatly assisted by both rugby’s granting to the television audience of microphone access to his every word and its recent introduction of the judicious use of video technology.
Firstly, we at home could see his body language and hear his instructions and the explanations for his decisions. One could not fail to form the view that he was clear about what he wanted, completely unbiased in his interpretations of what he’d seen, and – above all – consistent. If he warned the teams about ‘coming in from the side’, without fear or favour he penalised anyone he saw who didn’t take note – hence the outstanding Kiwi Number 8 Kieran Read receiving a yellow card and trudging to the sin bin just before half-time.
Secondly, rugby’s developing use of video review is proving a big success. Moments before Joe Lanchbury eventually scored England’s only try, during a period of England heavy pressure on the All Black try-line, it seemed that the English forwards had bullocked their way over. Unable to tell for himself, Joubert duly ‘went upstairs’, asking whether or not a try had been scored.
Three minutes passed as the video official – and we at home – watched the high-definition action from every angle in both real-time and slow motion. The impression I had gained of English success was not clearly backed up by any specific video sequence. Accordingly, totally in accordance with the rules rugby applies to the use of video, the video official announced that he had no video evidence of the ball actually being grounded and therefore no try could be awarded. And that was that.
Yesterday’s was a great rugby occasion. In one sense Mr Joubert was to all intents invisible, which is a compliment of sorts when applied to a referee.
However, in another, his performance – notable for its competence – was one of the best on the pitch.