Super Rugby referees stood down by SANZAR

Super Rugby organizers SANZAR have stood down three referees – Lourens van der Merwe, Francisco Pastrana and James Leckie – for upcoming matches following complaints from coaches and players about refereeing standards.

Australian James Leckie, South Africa’s Lourens van der Merwe and Argentinean match official Francisco Pastrana have all been stood down while Jason Jaftha is out for the year with a knee injury in total four referees have been cut from their panel.

Stuart Berry, Angus Gardner, Andrew Lees and Matt O’Brien are not scheduled for primary refereeing appointments in the coming fortnight but will be considered for Rounds 9-10, which will be released in due course.

Nick Briant will officiate Crusaders v Hurricanes on Friday night while Steve Walsh will oversee the Blues v Highlanders clash in Auckland on Saturday night.

SANZAR Game Manager Lyndon Bray said, “We have always strived to have strong accountability within our team and importantly, accountability for the competition. As such, we have always sought to conduct ourselves in a fair, transparent and open manner.

“One of our core strategic objectives is to grow the depth of the team that is able to referee ‘any game, any time.’ In line with this, we have reduced the size of the team heading into the next phase of the competition and in doing so, have recognised who has performed to expectation and who has not.

“The aim is to give this smaller pool of referees more game time so when it comes to the Finals Series, there’s a great deal of pressure around who will earn those highly sought after appointments and from a Super Rugby perspective, that the competition is getting a consistent high standard of refereeing.”

Super Rugby’s governing body responded to a litany of complaints from coaches and players
about refereeing standards in this season’s competition.

South African Lourens van der Merwe, Argentine Francisco Pastrana and Australian
James Leckie were all cut from the refereeing roster in a move referees boss
Lyndon Bray said Monday recognizes “who has performed to expectation and
who has not.”

The Super Rugby referees panel has been reduced from 18 to 14 with the additional
removal of South African Jason Jaftha, who is injured.

South African referee Stuart Berry, who has produced some of the most contentious
decisions in recent weeks, however remains a member of the refereeing panel,
as does Australian Angus Gardner.

Pastrana was criticized by coaches of both the Auckland-based Blues and Bloemfontein-based
Cheetahs last weekend after a match in which he made a number of surprising
decisions and seemed to misinterpret instructions from the television referee.

He has been replaced for this Friday’s match between the Crusaders and Hurricanes.

Van der Merwe has also been replaced for this Saturday’s match between the
Blues and Highlanders after complaints about his control of matches between
the Queensland Reds and Sharks and the Western Force and Chiefs.

Berry was publicly criticized by Bray for awarding a controversial try to South
Africa’s Lions in a match against New Zealand’s Blues two weeks ago. He was
also responsible for a 19-4 penalty count against the Reds in their 23-20 loss
to the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday after the team led 20-3.

Reds coach Richard Graham harshly criticized Berry’s performance.

“The penalty count was 19-4 against us,” he said. “I don’t think
I’ve ever been involved in a game where the penalty count has been like that.

“Certainly we will be speaking to Lyndon Bray to get clarification.”

Berry is due to act as an assistant referee in a match this weekend between
the Bulls and Chiefs.

Bray said Australians Angus Gardner, Andrew Lees and Matt O’Brien weren’t scheduled
to referee matches o

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