Red card the red card for the sake of the World Cup

ON THE BALL: With one swipe of the card South African referee Jaco Peyper made himself the most important “player” in world rugby this weekend, writes Lucky Maree.

The fact that Jaco Peyper got it wrong (according to most serious commentators) when slapping England fullback Freddie Steward with a red card, is only part of a much bigger problem.

Jaco Peyper and his partner in the Red Card Brigade, Marius Jonker are heading to the Rugby World Cup – armed with an endless supply of yellow and red cards bulging out of their tog bags.

Between Peyper, Jonker, and other men with whistles, they have the power to change the course of the Rugby World Cup.

In case you didn’t watch Ireland play England in the last match of the Six Nation, it was just before halftime when Ireland ball carrier Hugo Keenan put his head down and ran at full speed into Freddie Steward. Instinctively Steward turns his shoulder as Keenan clatters into him. Steward is a tall man and Keenan hits his head against Steward’s upper arm.

Keenan, reels back and falls onto the ground, perhaps with a little Irish flair, and crashes to the ground, holding his head in agony. The partisan Irish crowd, of course, go ballistic. Every time it is shown on the big screen they roar afresh as if Steward had stabbed him with an okapi.

Steward seems to be telling the ref that he didn’t have time to get out of the way. Peyper, who always seems to be very set on “being the man in charge”, says, “You had time to turn your shoulder. High degree of danger. Red Card.”

In this collision, Keenan has no responsibility. He had his head down, unaware of what was ahead of him. There is no consideration as to whether he caused his own collision.

Peyper has a way of handing out cards, doesn’t he? Mouth clenched, back stiffened, card held high. Only a traffic cop at a roadblock can be more commanding.

England are on the backfoot for the rest of the game. In truth, they were always on the backfoot as Ireland powered to a dominant Grand Slam victory, but England had taken the game to them for the full 40 minutes. Steward especially, was having an excellent game.

Peyper, of course, will insist that he was only applying the rules, and unfortunately he is right. These are the rules and he applies them with a passion.

The problem is with the rule. 

With the World Cup a few short months away, World Rugby seem to have dug in their heels. They seem to want the ref to have this most devastating weapon in their hands. They don’t seem to understand that the game is not about the ref. It is about the millions of people around the world who watch the game.

The simple solution is the player must be cited by the ref but carry on playing. A citing panel must decide later what the punishment must be. Imagine a player getting a two or four match ban. That would be brutal – but only do it after due consideration and without the pressure of the whole world watching.

But asking the ref to give up his cards is like asking a Texan to give up his rifle. They will kick and scream about losing that ultimate symbol of power until they are forced to do it.

We pray it will be before the World Cup, but that won’t happen, will it?

Pictured above: Jaco Peyper showing the red card

Image source: Twitter


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