Woah. There has been howling in the hallways of Sanzar this week at the "basic standards that have simply not been upheld over this past weekend" by match officials. These have resulted in some "disappointing decisions" and - please, say it ain't so - "selection consequences".
Apparently, by way of a carefully crafted media release that does not name names, and which offers no further context or clarification, referees boss Lyndon Bray has stood down Vinny Munro and demoted Glen Jackson for the next round of Super Rugby, which is fine and dandy if you take two and two and somehow come up with six.
The howling began after a typically headless and hedonistic local derby on Saturday night, in which the Chiefs lost both starting locks and were eventually downed by the Hurricanes 22-18. Both teams made their share of mistakes, combining for 31 turnovers and 51 missed tackles, yet of all the mistakes, it was one made by the refereeing team of Munro and Jackson that was homed in on by Dave Rennie in the post-match press conference, and which has garnered all the headlines this week.
The mistake was the decision to call a knock-on against Chiefs flanker Sam Cane in the 78th minute when Hurricanes prop Chris Eves had in fact forced the ball out of his hands while on the ground. The call was made by Jackson after reviewing big screen footage, and subsequently confirmed by Munro, who was on TMO duty. The call was wrong, but what's even more wrong is that neither official has been given the chance to clear this up.
You see, the referees can't say sorry to you or me, or to the coach of the Chiefs or to anyone else for that matter, because they are bound by Sanzar regulations that prevent them from doing so - the same Sanzar regulations that apparently prevent Bray from naming the individuals who have allegedly faced "selection consequences" this week.
Instead, we are left to deduce what we can from a media release and wait for calls to be returned. The process is ridiculous. They call for transparency then prevent referees from being transparent, they say referees make mistakes but then prevent them from apologising for those mistakes, they demand accountability and then send a release that gives the impression of accountability while allowing incorrect conclusions to be drawn - incorrect conclusions that were first reported on Tuesday morning and which have yet to be corrected by Sanzar.
The fact is, Munro was never scheduled to work on a match this weekend, yet the story of his "dropping" has been allowed to run. Jackson has been scheduled to be assistant referee this weekend for several weeks, yet the story of his "demotion" has been allowed to run. Sanzar was asked to clarify this yesterday morning, and yet at time of writing that clarification has not materialised.
I have a lot of sympathy for Rennie - he's been counting cards like a blackjack veteran all season long, and this was another tough call on his team, which now will have to fight their way to playoff contention and contend with the fact they will have no chance of home advantage should they progress beyond the first round of the post-season.
But I have sympathy, too, for Jackson and Munro, who have been hung out to dry by a system that claims "public confidence in match officials is essential". Well, what's essential for public confidence is nothing more than a little bit of honesty, and there has been none in the wash up from Saturday night's feverish moment.
Rennie spoke to media after yesterday's Chiefs training and applauded Sanzar for making referees accountable for their performance. He was, of course, referring to the aforementioned reports that Munro had been dropped and Jackson demoted.
He was furious enough about a mistake on Saturday night, now he is being led to believe there has been some of the accountability he called for when in fact there has been nothing but some good old-fashioned dissembling.
And why are we here? Because two referees who would have been first to admit they made an error have been prevented from doing so. Maybe we should reconsider the "basic standards" in question, and think about what other "disappointing decisions" have been made.