OVER in England, cricket captains and authorities are beating their heads about the use of video technology to keep umpiring mistakes to a minimum.
Last week, in New Zealand, a South African match official demonstrated how you use the technology in a game. And he did it in a final, the Super Rugby final, between the best teams in Australia and New Zealand, the finale of the 15-club competition.
Of course, in rugby union, the video footage is used sensibly; the umpires decide when to use it to prevent incorrect decisions. It is not left to the captains to call for adjudication when they want and then complain. And it has been in use for some time – the worldwide body running rugby union is made up of people who have some commonsense, unlike the dinosaurs who run cricket and then claim to be protecting tradition.
Craig Joubert is no greenhorn. He was the one man controlling the final where 15 men from the Brumbies of Canberra did battle with 15 from the Chiefs of Waikato. The match was a great spectacle, with a very high level of rugby played in the 80 minutes.
Joubert is not a nanny; he was not everywhere waving his hands and acting like he was the most important person on the field. He made his presence felt at the start, showed he was prepared to be firm and then stayed out of sight, except when he had to make a decision.
Rugby is a physical game and Joubert knew well that in this area he could either be a decisive influence or an interference from beginning to end. He did the right thing, allowing physicality that did not endanger life or limb; when required, as in the case of head-high tackles, he acted immediately. There was no prevarication, no hesitation. He knows the rules and interprets them in his own way, a way with which no player could find fault.
For the most part, these were run-of-the-mill decisions; whenever he had to speak to one side or the other, the viewers always knew what was being said because he was wired. He was firm but not overbearing; he was brief and to the point.
You couldn’t argue with him on any count because he left no room for argument. For example, when he called for a contentious try to be adjudged, he told the video umpire: “I think the ball has been held up; if you can see anything to negate that, let me know.”
And on another occasion when a mass of bodies went over the try-line: “I couldn’t see a thing; if you can see anything let me know.” And then, since the video umpire could not see a thing either, he used the default option: a five-metre scrum to the team on the attack.
One must also give Joubert full marks for his consistency; both sides got similar decisions for similar offences.
Referees and umpires are like technology; when they screw up, people go overboard in criticising them; when they do well, nobody notices.
Joubert deserves the highest accolades for handling the rugby final as well as any person could have.