MELBOURNE (Reuters) - World Cup-winning coach Bob Dwyer has backed South Africa’s calls for more balanced officiating at the World Cup and said referees have failed to crack down on negative tactics employed by the dominant All Blacks for a number of years.
South Africa’s coaches sparked a war of words with New Zealand in the leadup to the teams’ blockbuster opener in Yokohama on Saturday, declaring that referees have favoured dominant teams in line-ball decisions.
The All Blacks, winners of the last two World Cups, dismissed the allegation, with coach Steve Hansen accusing Springboks boss Rassie Erasmus of trying to manipulate Saturday’s referee, Frenchman Jerome Garces.
Dwyer, who guided Australia to their maiden World Cup win in 1991, said Erasmus’s views on test refereeing were widely shared but rarely voiced publicly.
“There’s definitely truth in the statement that the Kiwis get their fair share of what might be described as 50-50 decisions,” the 78-year-old told Reuters.
“I reckon if you took a vote around the world you’d get a 99 percent agreement with what the Springboks have said.
“I don’t have the slightest doubt that that’s the case. But nobody’s game to say anything, in case you get treated more harshly by the referees.
“That said, the Springboks are a pretty big name in rugby.”
World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper said on Tuesday that he believed the referees for this World Cup were better resourced and trained than officials at any previous tournament.
“This is the best prepared group of match officials we’ve ever had,” he said.
“Everything’s in place for as much consistency as possible.”
The game’s pre-eminent power for a decade, the All Blacks are bookmakers’ favourites to win a third World Cup in succession and a fourth in total in Japan.
While the team’s dominance is underlined by excellence in all facets of the game, media pundits have often accused Hansen’s side of employing calculated and cynical tactics to stop teams from scoring tries.
Dwyer said the All Blacks were serial offenders when under pressure near their goal-line, regularly committing deliberate penalties to concede three points from a penalty kick rather take the possible hit of seven points for a converted try.
The tactic, while not employed exclusively by New Zealand, had been aided and abetted by referees’ reluctance to hand out yellow cards and instead let teams off the hook with multiple cautions, Dwyer said.
“(All Blacks) do it from minute one. If you’re likely to score a try, they’ll give away a penalty,” said Dwyer.
“It has to be policed properly.
“We can’t allow contestants in the game to deliberately and cynically flout the laws of the game for one second or 80 minutes.
“They should demote referees if they don’t handle it.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Mulvenney