SANZAAR responds to damning research on 'hometown' referees

South African referee Egon Seconds is among those to have his performances criticised by Australian supporters from afar CHRISTIAAN KOTZE/AFP via Getty Images

SANZAAR say numbers uncovered by Green and Gold Rugby around hometown referees "need to be validated" and that the current outcry from the Australian rugby community is reactionary.

Super Rugby's move to a merit-based referee appointment system has raised its head at several points since the policy was enacted in 2008, but there has never been a debate quite like the one G&G Rugby's research set in motion a fortnight ago.

Those numbers showed local officials had favoured the home team, whilst refereeing inside the Republic, against non-South African opposition, by an astonishing figure of +159 penalties. This compared with Australian referees at home, +16 and New Zealand referees in New Zealand -16, sending social media into meltdown and had supporters calling for a response from the governing body.

G&G Rugby's numbers were published after the Reds were on the end of the a 14-3 penalty count in Argentina from local referee Frederico Anselmi - admittedly not in South Africa - but the website's numbers dating back to the start of 2017 certainly made for compelling reading.

G&G Rugby on Wednesday followed up its original research with an open letter addressed directly SANZAAR boss Andy Marinos, again calling on the chief executive to respond.

And finally he did, Marinos attributing the backlash to disenchantment from the Australian rugby community.

"It's very interesting that the whole neutrality (issue) comes up, when we've been on a meritocracy basis for the last 10 or 12 years, so I find that quite interesting at this point in time," Marinos told reporters during a bushfire fundraiser put on by the Lions in Sydney. "I think you've got to take a lens to where it's coming from.

"People are always producing statistics, but we will at the right time communicate our view on where we are from a competition perspective and the performances of our referees. I just don't understand where, all of sudden, after 10 years of meritocracy, suddenly now neutrality becomes an issue because a team, or teams, are suddenly are now feeling aggrieved by processes.

"I think what we need to do, is we need to validate those numbers, we need to put a proper picture in place, which is something we'll do and we'll be responding in due course on that."

Just when SANZAAR finalises that process remains unclear.

But Marinos called on the Australian rugby community to take a closer look at its own backyard in the meantime, alluding to some instances where the country's leading whistleblower Angus Gardner had come in for criticism in the past, most recently last year's World Cup.

"Minds are very very short in this [Australian] market where it wasn't so long ago that Angus Gardner got a bit of a public exposé in his internationals and his performance and there was a massive outcry about it; a very upset outcry, especially by Australia around 'how dare he be put up there and vilified, been made and used as a scapegoat, and his performances should be treated as confidential,'" Marinos said.

"So we've got a delicate balance here because what I do know and I've spent a lot of time talking to the refs, is that they don't go out there to deliberately negatively manipulate the outcome of a game and at the end of the day they're trying to manage what is a very [difficult] situation the best they can.

"Could we engage a bit more in terms on how we feel the referees are tracking? Absolutely; communication is certainly something that can be improved."