An embarrassed New Zealand Rugby Football Union yesterday smoothed over a potentially harmful row with South Africa, saying the incident had been dealt with internally.

NZRFU chief executive David Moffett would not say if the perpetrator, New Zealand manager of referee development Keith Lawrence, had been reprimanded.
Lawrence was forced to apologise to his South African counterpart Freek Burger following the sending of an e-mail which contained derogatory remarks about Burger. The e-mail had been sent to arrange a conference call between the three Super 12 referee managers but is understood to have contained earlier dialogue - not intended for South Africa - which had taken place between Lawrence and his
Australian counterpart.

Keith has spoken to Freek Burger and has apologised to him and Freek Burger has graciously accepted that apology and they between them have decided to move on and put it behind them," Moffett said.

"It's something we would have preferred not to have happened, it was a mistake and it has been apologised for."

Both the NZRFU and South African Rugby Union have said there was no conspiracy involved in the e-mail in which the Anzac partners agreed to "teach the Japies (South Africans ) a lesson."

The message went on: "We won't tell Freek what we have decided and make sure (SARU chief executive Rian) Oberholzer doesn't get involved."

Moffett said the issue stemmed from a frustration related to the assessment criteria and standards to be used in assessing referees.

"There was a degree of frustration in respect to this which boiled over into the e-mail," he said.

"It should not have happened and Keith is aware of that and he's apologised for it. That is the issue and it does not involve anything else."

Moffett said the refereeing assessment procedures had now been resolved between the Super 12 participants.

Changes to the interpretations of some rules and the referees' ability to carry them out have been at the root of a less appealing Super 12 competition this year, but Moffett said the laws would be in place until the World Cup in October/November and it was up to the players to adapt.

The laws will be then revisited by the International Rugby Board and Moffett said it was likely New Zealand would be keen for a closer look at some of the issues.