My take on Bryce Lawrence, the state of Rugby and why a certain little petition was created that has been making a lot of noise from New Zealand to the UK via Australia and South Africa.
Like many other South African's in London, I made my way over to The Slug in Wimbledon in the early hours of Sunday morning, to watch and support our boys against Australia in the Rugby World Cup Quarter Final. As the game played through, like every other Saffa in the venue I was constantly at the edge of my seat screaming at the screen at the blatant incompetent manner that Bryce Lawrence was "controlling" the game. At times we felt absolutely convinced that he was purposefully handing the game to the Aussies. I won't go into the technical aspects of this complete blunder of a game since if you really want to go through the technical aspects with a fine tooth comb, then just take a look through the posts on the petition page.
As we watched helplessly seeing our dreams of reaching the semi final slipping from under our feet, when that final whistle blew, you could probably hear a pin drop in The Slug, the expression on everyone's faces was, did that really just happen? The words of the commentators painted a very similar picture and even the few Aussies amongst us even looked just as shocked. The Aussies played a good defence game, but it was as clear as day that the Boks had completely outshone the Aussies throughout that whole game even without looking at the stats. Now I've never really been one of those people who jump on the "blame the ref bandwagon" unless it really warrants it, I like to leave that up to the football fans, but on this occasion it was blatantly obvious that not only were we playing against the Aussies, but the ref too, the amount of errors that Bryce Lawrence was making were inexcusable for a ref at his level. Now one thing I'd like to point out is that if that game was reffed fairly, it would have been a completely different game, I'm not saying the Boks would have won or lost because quite honestly, we will never really know since any movement by any player would have gone on a different path following a chain of different actions to bring a somewhat different result. In the end Australia may have scored more points or even SA for that matter bringing an end result, but a fair result aswell, which I'm sure both sides of the park would have accepted either way. The thing is, we'll never really know because we were all up against Bryce's game and his rules in his head. Something needed to be done
We all know its not the first time Bryce Lawrence has completely botched a game, back in 2009 he was blamed for costing the Lions the series, ironically against South Africa. Remember all the heat he was getting during the Super 15 tournament, in particular the Sharks vs Crusaders game, he was being labelled by supporters as appalling then. Then comes the World Cup and the massive amount of stick he got from the Aussies for botching their game against Ireland which argueably cost the Aussies the game in the end. The "Trouble With Bryce" stems way back during his upper level Rugby debut after a decision that caused a bit of upset with the Canterbury boys, Lawrence claimed that the legend that is Andrew Mehrtens said quite loudly "Don’t worry guys, he’ll be back reffing second division next weekend”, unfortunately for the world of Rugby, that didn't happen, but you've got to wonder why Mehrtens would come up with a rather bold statement towards a ref regarding his performance.... notice we haven't even got to Sunday's game yet...
You've got to ask yourself why Bryce seems to consistently be incompetent, and why fans seem to consistently comment with similar words to and including the word, appalling. It really does beg the question of how he has managed to keep his job for so long considering the amount of bad press he gets year in year out, his name seems to be synonymous with bad reffing in match round ups, in many cases, not just leaving commentators speaking under their voices, but quite literally left dumbfounded. The only real reason I can possibly think of why he's lasted this long and being one of those guys that are placed out of their depth, is because Bryce is the son of New Zealander Keith Lawrence, the former topdog of referees in New Zealand who now heads the IRB’s refereeing development board, who also has a bit of a black dot next to his name when it comes to South Africa... surprise surprise... and lets not forget, Paddy O'Brien and Keith are huge mates, naturally Paddy would take young buck Bryce under his wing and keep him safe. Personally I think Keith has got a lot of faith in his son, as many fathers do, that he'll influence and even risk the integrity of Rugby itself to see that his son makes the grade, which sadly, and yes, unfortunately the reality is he doesn't. Kinda like that father that has a go at the coach at a school rugby match for not giving his son enough game time because he "believes" his son is "the best of the lot" and should even be playing in a higher age group. Proud fathers, just one of those facts of life I guess, but at some point the reality needs to be faced.
Last week when it was announced that Bryce Lawrence would be reffing the Quarter Final between South Africa and Australia. My Facebook newsfeed was inundated with status updates basically saying, well there goes our chances at the World Cup. It's as if we'd all just suddenly become fortune tellers because come Sunday, those predictions were very correct. Around the same time, this post was posted on a major New Zealand blog entitled, "Bryce Lawrence- Worst Referee In The RWC". Did everyone besides the IRB see this coming from a mile away.... it seems so.
Now I'm no brain surgeon, but I really don't think you need to be remotely as intellectual to think that there wouldn't be any problem with letting Bryce ref the South Africa vs Australia quarter final when the very last game he reffed with Australia attracted so much bad attention, anyone would naturally think that he'd let them get away with murder. I mean really, aren't these people supposed to be educated? Clearly the IRB have no clue of the concept of forward thinking... which I'll prove again shortly. Personally if it was me, I would have said to Paddy, thanks for the offer but I think I'll sit this one out considering what happened with the aftermath of the last Aussie game. Another point is, there really should be a rule in place for the World Cup (I think there may actually be one) where a ref from a particular country would not aloud to ref a game that may directly influence the outcome if his home country is directly in line to play the winning team, in simple terms, he may be able to influence and set up an easy opponent to advance his home side in the tournament in the next match. The problem is because if you don't have something like that in place to rule that influence factor out, you leave that window wide open for claims of, cheating, match fixing, biased and setting up... which is exactly what an unbelievable amount of people have been calling it, why? because they can, because it is more than a possibility and nobody can say any differently. It is for that reason hat we are calling it, and would like the IRB to prove that it is not the case. Like South Africa, in New Zealand rugby is THE national sport, it would be very easy for someone in Bryce's position, being a kiwi himself and knowing what winning the World Cup on home soil would mean to him and his fellow countrymen, the temptation may have been a little too strong here, and there's every possibility that it could have.
So here comes Sunday's game between South Africa and Australia which the best word for it, which has been widely used, most notably in the Telegraph is... a farce. Bryce Lawrence's performance on the field showcased to the entire world that he was way out of his league, and that this level was way beyond his abilities to control a fair game. As you've probably noticed by now, I'm not standing here alone saying all this, there are tens of thousands of people that stand with me. This was clearly observed and spoken about by the average supporter right up to the world renowned legends who have eat, lived and breathed Rugby for most of the lives.
The media and experienced rugby reporters have dragged Bryce over the hot coals with his dire performance, hard hitting legendary names, such as Andre Watson, Cobus Visagie, David Campese and even the New Zealand assistant coach Steve Hansen to name a few, have voiced their disappointment in Bryce Lawrence's abilities, and this has come from all corners of the earth, not just South Africa. Quite honestly the media have had a field day, rather week, at the dire state of reffing ability from Bryce Lawrence. So much that he is really bringing so much controversy to this World Cup that it is turning it into disrepute and really tarnishing it in a big way. Something that it may now always be remembered for, which is rather sad really. If I was a Kiwi right now, I'd be heavily disappointed in the bad light that has been cast over this World Cup in my home country thanks to certain people such as Bryce Lawrence.
Unfortunately because it was South Africa that was last to fall short due to the incompetence of Bryce, and naturally mostly South African's that are causing the most noise right now, me included, a term which I've heard quite a bit over the last few days is, Sour Grapes, let me just say that between the Aussies and the Kiwi's, their knowledge of types of wines astonishes me where people should really become wine connoisseurs, however I've managed to ignore it and put it down to cheap shots from less educated people who simply can't read and/or look into this a bit deeper and see the reasons for what we are trying to achieve, because it is really miles away from just being plain sore losers. It is unfortunate but it would seem that the biggest accusers of this are the ones who were in a similar boat weeks before. A common comment is, to take it on the chin. Well you see that's just the problem, if we take this on the chin like everybody else has eventually done in the past, the farce will continue and sooner or later another team or nation will be in the exact same situation that we are in now. Others may have been forced to accept things, take it on the chin, deal with it, maybe its a South African thing where sooner or later someone is going to say enough is enough. No longer are we going to put up with just having to deal with it, this is our game, this is something that not just South Africans, but avid rugby supporters around the world hold very close to our hearts. Due to match fixing and the likes, Cricket over the years has become a bit of a joke, and don't even get me started on unbelievable amount of bull that surrounds football these days, Rugby is the game that we would like to think of as rather fair, well renowned, cultured and wholesome if that is a good word to use. I'd like to think Rugby is one of the last mainstream sports that is hopefully isn't full of corruption, match fixing and that hasn't become a joke, but when things like this happen it causes a mockery and really damages the integrity of our game. This campaign falls far from just Sunday's game, personally I've accepted that South Africa are out of the World Cup and we will have to wait another four years to prove our worth, the unfortunate reality of the situation, is that a rematch would almost certainly be financially and logistically impossible, but like I've said from the beginning, this isn't a case of who won or who could have won, because at the end of the day, the real loser was Rugby. It has been losing for far too long now which needs to get grip on and controls put in place to prevent the mockery that has been going on.
I guess its safe to say that the IRB is a bit of a shambles at the moment, it needs to look itself in the mirror, and really weed out what is damaging the game's integrity, in particular it's reffing department. Bryce Lawrence is not alone in all this, I can hear the name Wayne Barnes being screamed out loud all the way from New Zealand right now, and there are others, however Bryce is known to be the very worst and needs hang up his boots, because if we start by getting rid of the worst, then the game will be just that bit better until it is the best it can be since the biggest question amongst the "untouchables" will be, who's next?
I really don't have anything personal against Bryce Lawrence, I don't know him, he's probably a nice guy, but what we all do know is that, this is really not the thing for him and he should not be reffing at such a level that he is clearly incapable of. We'd like to politely and respectfully ask, that Bryce Lawrence acknowledges that he is not fit for the task and steps down, and if he does refuse, then myself and every single person amongst the tens of thousands who continue to sign themselves up in support of our growing petition, request that the IRB relieves Bryce Lawrence of his reffing duties as we no longer have any confidence in him successfully controlling a fair game of Rugby at a world class level.
If you agree with what has been written and want to preserve the integrity of the game that we enjoy so much, regardless of nationality, in this case our only nationality is "Rugby", I would highly recommend that you sign the petition by "Liking" the page, as over the last few days it's has been overwhelming to see the strength in unity aswell as voice we have had in the media, our cause has been recognised all over the world in major publications. It's growth in such a short period of time has been mind blowing. It has been rather interesting to what what has been going on, supporters have been rather, if I could say, passionate to the least. Comments have ranged from gracious to vile as described in the NZ Herald, although vile comments are not at all condoned by myself or the petition since its main aim is to provide a clear and simple message through strength in numbers, however people have a right to opinion and vent their frustrations where they see fit, which is up to themselves and their own responsibilty at the end of the day. I won't say it hasn't been rather creative and entertaining no less. It's also been interesting to watch how certain people comment on the page to purposefully stir trouble with the supporters which does leave alot to be desired by the level of maturity and interlect that these people have by not having the ability to see what we are really trying to achieve. I'd like to thank those who have displayed a level of maturity to not stoop to the levels of these delinquents and still support the cause whole heartedly.
I'd like to thank the following for giving us a mention and getting the word out
Sport24 (our biggest supporter)
Sydney Morning Herald
The South African (London)
As well as many others that I may have not come across yet, your input has really helped this cause in a big way.
Saving the best for last, I would like to thank each and every single person who has and will join the petition, without you, this would have never materialised to the powerful voice that it is now, you can each give yourselves a pat on the back for making this happen, you have shown that we will make a stand for our sport and not let this continue to happen, your support is greatly appreciated and here's to hoping that those who are in a position to make those changes, do the right thing, for the love of Rugby.
For those who are still yet to join this campaign, no matter where you are from, lets get behind this and drive forward for the love of the game, we are making a stand and we cannot be ignored, united we have a loud voice that is being heard, lets make Rugby, Rugby and proudly keep it Rugby, for the love of Rugby! Let's do it! BIG SHOVE!
At the time of writing this the amount of people that are supporting the petition has ticked over 76 699 supporters... in just 5 days... phenominal!