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Federico Anselmi © Gallo Images

Sanzaar changes ref for Bulls game

With the South African conference tightly knit and three teams level in second place behind the log-leading Emirate Lions, governing body Sanzaar has changed the referee for the clash between the Vodacom Bulls and the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Saturday night.

While late changes of referees are apparently based on rankings and form, and referees are stood down if the governing body feels they need a rest, the decision to change from a New Zealand referee to an Argentinean referee for the clash – a vital one in terms of the conference, has certainly raised eyebrows around Loftus Versfeld.

Originally the game was meant to be refereed by young New Zealand referee Brendon Pickerill, but this was changed on Tuesday by Sanzaar to local referee Federico Anselmi, who will now take charge of the match in Buenos Aires.

While home-town referees are nothing new in the competition, the spotlight on referees of late, including the ill-fated World Cup qualifier between Spain and Belguim last month has brought the whistleblowers very much into focus, after a Romanian referee was appointed for a game where Romania stood to benefit if the Spanish lost.

Still, with the Jaguares and the Bulls on a level footing on the log, it may not have been the best thing to appoint a home-town referee, especially in an environment which Bulls coach John Mitchell expects to be “hostile”.

Anselmi has, however, been a Super Rugby referee for several seasons now, with mixed success but the move has certainly become a talking point in the Bulls camp.

Sanzaar replied to queries on the change with the same statement they sent to media the day before after the Stormers complained about Ben O’Keefe’s officiating.

“As far as SANZAAR is concerned there is no issue whatsoever with match officiating. We have a very professional team of referees that are selected from the best officials from the national unions. There is also a very professional and robust system in place for the selection and management of match officials. That system is discussed at length with teams and coaches and reviewed every year,” an official said.

“The coaches and teams have opted for merit based appointments as an integral part of this process - that is the best referee for the job regardless of nationality.

“The controversies are created by disappointed coaches and the media to be honest.

“That said for individual matches the coaches have the ability to provide feedback to Game Manager Lyndon Bray each week. And they do provide a lot of feedback as part of the ongoing review process. Lyndon reviews all matches and works with the referees on performance and referee managers in the national unions, and adjustments are made weekly when necessary - for example we have had some injuries and illness this year.”


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