Super Rugby's organising body will be pleased with the make-up of the finalists - a team from New Zealand and a team from South Africa, both of whom lost only once in the round-robin - now Sanzaar has to get the make-up of the match officials right.

Angus Gardner, who has had a good season with the whistle, will be the favourite to officiate the final at Ellis Park between the Lions and Crusaders.

He was on the AMI Stadium sidelines as an assistant referee for the Crusaders' semifinal win over the Chiefs, and it would surprise if he didn't get the main job in the big one.

Sanzaar no longer allocate referees according to their nationality - but Gardner has the added advantage of being an Australian. He also has the advantage of not being involved in the Lions v Hurricanes semifinal, a match in which, perhaps inevitably, the spotlight fell on the performance of the four South African officials.


The Hurricanes had several reasons to be disappointed with the performance of ref Jaco Peyper - particularly for the second-half yellow card shown to Beauden Barrett, who was sinbinned for playing the ball with his legs in a ruck when replays showed he was simply trying to get out of the way.

The Lions were hot on the attack, but there was no team warning, just a straight yellow from Peyper, and the home side capitalised first with the easy penalty kick and then a converted try while Barrett was off.

Modern rugby at Super Rugby and test level is an incredibly difficult game to referee given the pace and intensity of it, and a set of neutral officials would immediately remove the perception of partiality.

The Hurricanes made some poor errors in letting slip a 22-3 lead but Peyper and his assistants Rasta Rasivhenge, Marius van der Westhuizen and TMO Marius Jonker were involved in some big decisions which went against the visitors.

The grounding of two tries was questioned by skipper Dane Coles, with assistant referee Rasivhenge in no doubt about the second - even telling Peyper not to go to the TMO when a more considered approach might have been appropriate.

Viewed in isolation, the issue might not appear significant. But the performance of the South African match officials in the Stormers v Blues match this season threatened to undermine the integrity of the competition all by itself.

That was the match in which several dubious calls were made against the Blues by referee Jaco van Heerden, TV match official Shaun Veldsman and the assistant refs Marius van der Westhuizen and Cwengile Jadezweni, the worst of which was deciding Shaun Treeby's swinging arm to the jaw of Piers Francis, which knocked the Blues No10 unconscious, was not a red card offence.

Van der Westhuizen had the honour of officiating on the sidelines at Ellis Park this weekend.


A Gardner appointment as referee for next weekend would be the first step for Sanzaar, but they must get the rest of his team right too for the sake of the competition. The final has the best two teams in it, now we need the best officials.