New South Wales Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has accused Super Rugby referees of penalising players for making hard but legal tackles, which he believes will eventually soften up the highly physical sport.
Referee Steve Walsh watched a replay before issuing Waratahs hooker John Ulugia a yellow card on Saturday in Sydney for a chest-high tackle on Queensland Reds winger Rod Davies, which left Cheika fuming.
The coach compared Walsh’s decision to umpire Aleem Dar’s mistake in the first Ashes Test on Friday when the Pakistani turned down Australia’s appeal for a catch against England’s Stuart Broad despite the batsman clearly getting an edge.
“Everyone saw it. I don’t know if it was Aleem Dar proportions, but it was pretty crooked,” Cheika said after the Waratahs lost 14-12 to their traditional rivals.
“He had a second look as well. It was interesting listening to the third umpire, the TMO. He was saying: ‘Do you want me to comment, Steve?’ And he said: ‘No, no, no. I’ll have another look.’ So he didn’t want him to comment obviously. But I think everyone saw he put his arms around him. I don’t know whether they should have had a kiss or not while they were in there.”
Cheika blamed the match officials for softening up the game.
“It’s a shame because hardness is going out of the game,” he added. “There’s nothing illegal about it. It’s a good, hard tackle and that’s what we try to get guys to do at training.
“Then in a game, as soon as someone puts in a good shot on, everyone panics. Like, ‘give him the sin bin’. I don’t know, touch footy next year maybe.”