Stormers skipper, coach question referee, Nick Mallett lets RIP!

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Stormers captain Steven Kitshoff admits his side were left baffled by the lack of reward for their maul dominance in Saturday’s 19-17 United Rugby Championship (URC) defeat against Connacht.

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South African teams have frequently been left puzzled by some of the refereeing decisions they have to contend with in the northern hemisphere since joining the URC, and it was no different as they returned to action up north this past weekend.

Scottish referee Ben Blain was the man with the whistle at the Sportsground in Galway, and while both Kitshoff and Stormers coach John Dobson stopped short of directly criticising the referee, they admitted they could not understand some of the decisions being made.

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Kitshoff was particularly disgruntled by their lack of any reward at maul time.

“The mauling was very frustrating,” Kitshoff said.

“I felt we had complete dominance when it came to maul time, and we didn’t get any reward out of it.

“There were some cynical penalties that were missed. I’m not bad-mouthing the ref at all, but there were clear penalties missed, and it was very frustrating. We’ll have a look at what went wrong and then discuss it with the refs prior to the games, but it was very frustrating not to get more reward out of those amazing maul meters we made.”

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Dobson added: “It felt like that last tour when we were here and adapting to a slightly different realm, especially around the scrum and the maul.”

“The penalty count was a concern, and we’ll have to have a look at it,” the coach added.

“The jump from local derbies to a northern hemisphere game up here was always going to require a certain level of adaptation, and maybe we weren’t fast enough or sharp enough there.

“Cross-playing will help. When they come down to us, we can try to get these styles to match up. I think you would all agree that what we saw over the local derbies – especially at scrum and maul time – wasn’t what we saw today in terms of teams getting rewarded or penalised or how you can defend mauls.

“I think the more we play each other, the more we’ll get some form of uniformity. I don’t want to say much more than that, but it was a source of frustration for us.”

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However, former Springbok coach Nick Mallett didn’t hold back in his assessment of the referee.

Speaking in the SuperSport studios post-match, Mallett said: “When you see how enthusiastically he blew his whistle when the Stormers made a mistake and how he rued blowing his whistle when Connacht made a mistake, it wasn’t surprising to know who he wanted to win.”

According to Mallett, all the 50/50 calls appeared to go Connacht’s way and there was also debate over the costly yellow card (the second of the half) dished out to Stormers centre Ruhan Nel for a high hit.

Mallett added that it was “ridiculous” that Nel was yellow carded.

Fellow pundit and former Springbok prop Robbie Kempson agreed with Mallett.

“The ref was absolutely terrible. I agree with Nick, enthusiastic is polite. I can’t fathom how the Stormers could drive so well in first half but never in the second half. This was a poor reffing performance. It was that simple,” Kempson said.

The defeat saw the Stormers slip behind the Sharks to ninth in the URC standings with 24 points from 10 (of 18) matches.

The Stormers will next be in action against bottom side Zebre Parma at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch on Sunday, 13 March at 18:05.

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