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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Berry escapes ref axe

Rugby governing body Sanzar have dumped three referees from the Vodacom Super Rugby competition after poor performances, but controversial referee Stuart Berry is safe…for now.

Sanzar refereeing boss Lyndon Bray confirmed the names of Argentinean Francesco Pastrana, James Leckie and Lourens van der Merwe were axed with immediate effect for poor performances but Berry, who was lambasted by Reds coach Richard Graham after his performance in the Lions win on Saturday night, is safe for now.

Berry seems to have escaped the axe, even though he gave a controversial try a week before which helped the Lions beat the Blues. While he isn’t down for the next two weeks, he will be considered for any games in rounds 9 and 10 when the new schedule will be released.

Bray told newspapers last week that errant referees would be purged at the end of the month to ensure the standards of the competition are held high.

"One of our core strategic objectives is to grow the depth of the team that is able to referee 'any game, any time,'" Bray said in a Sanzar statement. "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 ... that the competition is getting a consistent high standard of refereeing."

Pastrana had the Toyota Cheetahs seething after their 40-30 loss to the Blues on Saturday as he awarded a contentious yellow card against Boom Prinsloo and then gave a try despite the TMO telling him that Blues player George Moala had used a double movement.

Pastrana’s name has now been removed for Friday’s game between the Crusaders and Hurricanes, with Nick Briant taking over, while Lourens van der Merwe was due to take charge of the Blues v Highlanders game in Auckland. That game has been handed to Steve Walsh.

Still it was strange that Berry hasn’t been axed, and it can only be as he hasn’t been consistently bad, despite Saturday’s game where he issued two yellow cards against the Reds as the Lions surged back to win. With a penalty count of 19-4 against the Reds, it was clear why Reds coach Richard Graham was upset.

"We are extremely frustrated," Graham said after the game.

"I thought we showed an enormous amount of character. I am clearly frustrated with the result and with the number of penalties given against us - and the yellow cards which come on the back of them."

"I've never seen that in a game before in my life. It would be fair to say that I felt aggrieved at the end of the match when we were down to six forwards and a back on the scrum and we're going forward and (the Lions front row) stand up and we're not rewarded."

Berry is part of a quartet, which includes Angus Gardner, Andrew Lees and Matt O'Brien, who are not scheduled for primary refereeing appointments in the coming fortnight (as per the communication issued on March 11), but will be considered for Rounds 9-10, which will be released in due course.

ROUND 7 (revised appointments)

Crusaders v Hurricanes - Nick Briant
Rebels v Brumbies - Jaco Peyper
Blues v Highlanders - Steve Walsh
Reds v Stormers - Chris Pollock
Bulls v Chiefs - Craig Joubert
Sharks v Waratahs - Mike Fraser

ROUND 8 (no change)

Highlanders v Rebels - Chris Pollock
Brumbies v Blues - Rohan Hoffmann
Hurricanes v Bulls - Steve Walsh
Reds v Force - Garratt Williamson
Cheetahs v Chiefs - Craig Joubert
Lions v Crusaders - Marius van der Westhuizen
Stormers v Waratahs - Glen Jackson

Stuart Berry, Angus Gardner, Andrew Lees and Matt O'Brien are not scheduled for primary refereeing appointments in the coming fortnight (as per the communication issued on March 11), but will be considered for Rounds 9-10, which will be released in due course.


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