Jonathan Kaplan – time to call it quits

David Lord Columnist

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    Jonathan KaplanJonathan Kaplan must go. The arrogant South African rugby referee made a monumental blunder in yesterday’s Ireland v Wales Six-Nations clash at the Millennium Stadium that cost the men-in-green a crack at the Triple Crown.

    But it’s not the first time by a long shot, and if he’s allowed to continue, it sure won’t be the last, by a longer shot.

    In the 50th minute of a tight game, Welsh captain Matthew Rees made a quick thrown-in, which resulted in half-back Mark Phillips scoring what turned out to be the match-winning try – Wales home 19-13.

    But the throw-in wasn’t made with the ball kicked into touch – the try was illegal.

    Kaplan conferred with his touch-judge, and awarded the try, refusing point-blank the frantic appeal by Ireland’s skipper Brian O’Driscoll to go upstairs.

    “That was a huge moment, and why TMOs are there to check those questionable tries,” said O’Driscoll, one of the most revered players in international rugby.

    Arrogant alright, Kaplan’s made a career out of it – rugby doesn’t need it, nor deserve it.

    While Ireland’s spitting chips, with Welsh coach Warren Gatland agreeing it was an illegal try, every team has been forced to cop Kaplan’s arrogance, and lack of people management skills, he can’t keep treating internationals like naughty kindergarten kids.

    But that’s exactly what he’s been doing since his international debut in 1996, controlling the Namibia-Zimbabwe game, in Harare.

    It’s beyond belief he has been allowed to become the most-capped international ref with 59 matches, as he’s universally known as the nemesis, after a litany of unfathomable decisions.

    Like the Rebels-Brumbies Super 15 clash, at AAMI Park.

    Kaplan missed a blatant forward pass that gifted the Brumbies the lead late in the game with a Henry Speight try, but “made amends” by awarding the Rebels a penalty on time, which Danny Cipriani converted for a 25-24 win.

    The penalty was an atrocious decision, at worst it was a “handbags at dawn” minor dust-up, but it handed the Rebels their first victory.

    Despite his many shortcomings, Kaplan has the unqualified support of the IRB, and in more recent times, the governing body boss of refs Paddy O’Brien, himself a questionable ref during his spotted career.

    The perfect example Christchurch 2006 – All Blacks-Wallabies.

    Kaplan sin-binned Wallaby backrower Rocky Elsom for three alleged infringements at the tackle, and during those 10 minutes the men-in-black scored two converted tries.

    In the same game, All Black skipper Richie McCaw was penalised three times in 18 minutes for the identical offence, but stayed on the paddock.

    “It was a subjective call,” chirped Kiwi O’Brien.

    Of course it was – not wrong, just subjective.

    In the after-game interview, Wallaby coach John Connolly said “We have problems with Kaplan”, and was severely reprimanded by the IRB for having the audacity to complain.

    It stinks, and there are far too many similar stories to Christchurch from the majority of teams Kaplan has refereed, with the NSW Waratahs leading the charge after losing 80% of their games over the years to Kaplan’s incessant whistle.

    There is an answer to the Kaplan problem, with former Wallaby skipper John Eales providing the perfect retort.

    In the 1999 World Cup final, the French were repeatedly gouging Wallaby eyes, using the slipper, and genital grabbing – but another arrogant South African referee Andre Watson wasn’t interested.

    Eales had a torn cornea in a swollen right eye, Richard Harry, Michael Foley, and George Gregan, all suffered eye injuries – David Wilson was kicked in the face, lying on the ground – and there were a lot of sore genitals.

    Eales had enough, he walked up to Watson and told him if he didn’t stop the illegal carnage, he was taking the Wallabies off the field in protest, and Watson can sort it out with the IRB afterwards.

    It was a dramatic statement from another revered international, that produced a dramatic change in Watson’s attitude.

    Suddenly there was a spate of penalties against the French, the carnage stopped, and the Wallabies went on to regain the coveted Cup 35-12. It was Watson’s last appearance.

    And good riddance.

    The quicker Jonathan Kaplan suffers the same fate, the better.

    Send him back exclusively to the South African circuit, but there’s a growing belief they won’t cop him either.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn’t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world’s great sporting spectacles