Referee’s son Stuart Hogg is steering well clear of the officiating controversies in the build-up to the Lions’ second test, describing Saturday’s ref Ben O’Keeffe as “one of the best I’ve had to deal with”.
The Scotland captain and Lions full-back wouldn’t bite on commenting on Springbok director of rugby Rassie Erasmus’ hour-long video haranguing referees. But did praise the Kiwi ref who will handle the second test.
‘We haven’t watched it or seen any footage’
Rassie Erasmus has offered to step back from South Africa's series against the British and Irish Lionsagter releasing an hour-long video showing a host of refereeing discrepancies during the first Test between South Africa and the Lions: https://t.co/UpmIDz9JM8 pic.twitter.com/o4mlabV4Qr
— Sky Sports Rugby Union (@SkySportsRugby) July 29, 2021
“Obviously (the Erasmus video) is flying around social media. But we haven’t watched it and seen any footage,” said Hogg, whose father John was a referee in Scottish district and club rugby. “We’ve been concentrating on ourselves and left him to himself.
“For me, in the short time I’ve been Scotland captain, Ben O’Keeffe has been one of the best refs I’ve had to deal with. He almost coaches you around the field, we ask questions and he’s very calm in his answers.
“He’s good at communicating and that’s why a large majority of the games where he’s involved, they’re allowed to flow and get on with it.
“He helped me massively in the couple of games we’ve had him when I’ve been leading the side. I think everyone’s entitled to their opinions, but the refs are the ones that run the game. They have a huge amount of respect from us as players.
“I’d hate to do the job if I’m honest. But Ben’s been one of the best refs I’ve had to deal with as captain.”
‘It’s just a sideshow’
World Rugby statement on Rassie Erasmus' video:
"World Rugby notes the comments made by Rassie Erasmus.
"The nature of these will be raised with the union via the usual official channels and no further comment will be made at this stage."
— Murray Kinsella (@Murray_Kinsella) July 29, 2021
Lions assistant coach Robin McBryde said that the tourists had no issues with the refs and the pre-match meeting with the officials had been constructive.
“Ben O’Keeffe said himself, ‘Listen, we’re aware there’s a lot of stuff out there on social media, but that’s not going to affect anything’. It’s just a sideshow, to be honest with you.
“But we had a positive discussion with the referees. Everyone realises they’re in a tough place. But we were really happy with Nic Berry last Saturday and I don’t think it will be any different this weekend either.
“On Ben, we’ve got no issues. He’s a top man and we’re looking forward to working with him on Saturday.”
McBryde said he hadn’t favoured the recent laws trial in the Pro14 Rainbow Cup which allowed captains to call for video reviews of referees’ decisions.
“My own view is it brought out an element of scenes that we don’t like to see, where you’re openly challenging decisions of the referee.
“Traditionally rugby has prided itself on being able to rise above that and show respect to the officials. Hopefully that will continue.”
Biggar still on course to make second test
Stand-off Dan Biggar remains on course to play in Saturday’s game. The Lions released a statement detailing his return-to-play protocols since suffering a head knock in the first test.
“Dan will complete his graduated return to play today (Friday) with his final contact-training session,” read the statement. “He has been symptom-free since his post-match head-injury assessment and has remained so throughout the process.
“He has been monitored daily by two consultant sports physicians and has also been reviewed by an independent concussion consultant.
“All players will have an individualised and highly integrated approach to their management.
“Our players’ health remains the absolute priority. We continue to deliver the highest level of care independent of any match regardless of its importance.”