Early warning to readers – I haven’t had my customary post Stormers loss “cooling off period” before I wrote this piece. Stuart Dickinson is a name that lives infamy for most South African rugby fans. It’s fair to say he rivals Malema in unpopularity in some parts of the republic. Dickinson has been at the hands of a many a shocking call going back to the early days of Super rugby, even calling 16 consecutive penalties against the Stormers and none for them in a memorable Dickinson performance several years ago. Dickinson has lost none of his charm since then.
Cut to the Waikato game today where the Stormers were in cruise control up 20-3 against a Chiefs team that looked tired and jaded. Aplon and Kahui were in a chase for the ball in the in-goal area, with Aplon holding his line and appearing to hold onto Kahui as he dove for the ball.
Now I am as biased as anyone out there, but even the kiwi commentators were saying it was touch and go whether or not a penalty try could be awarded. The irritating part of this TMO decision was that when it was referred to the television ref, Dickinson practically got on his knees and begged the TMO to give him a reason to give Aplon a yellow. Not once. Twice. He reminded the TMO that he was looking for another incident in addition to the try. The result was a yellow for Aplon and a penalty try (talk about double jeopardy) and even more of a points swing during the 10 minute sin-bin.
The Stormers 2nd half performance (throwing away a 20-3 lead) was dismal enough on its own to deserve the loss. Dickinson doesn’t get full credit for the choke, the halfback combination of the Stormers was also woeful. But Dickinson is the kind of guy that brings out the worst in rugby fans.
The really irritating thing about his performance was not only this incident, or that when Peter Grant received a massive “no-arms” early hit he only blew a penalty, but it is the way that Dickinson, like Wayne Barnes, needs to feel like he has made an impact on the game. He has the look of one of those refs that isn’t happy unless the camera is on him making the big decisive calls and asserting his authority Eric Cartman-like on the game (respect-my-authoritah!).
What rubbed salt into the wounds was that, as followthebounce correctly tweeted, you could just imagine Arnold Geerts in the Supersport studio drooling at the prospect of being able to call it “a game of two halves”. Cut to studio, hey presto and Arnold did not disappoint. I hate to be “one of those fans”, but seriously – Dickinson cocked this game up.
Refs like this really ruin games from being a spectacle about players to a spectacle about the correctness or incorrectness of their calls. Well done Stuart – you managed yet again to make a good game about you rather than about rugby.
For the record – the Stormers went on to lose 23-30.