AUCKLAND: A New Zealander who shares his name with referee Bryce Lawrence said Friday he had been receiving calls from angry South African fans who blame the Kiwi official for their team's Rugby World Cup exit. The Auckland resident told the New Zealand Herald he had been getting telephone calls at all hours of the night after his number was posted on a number of websites. The sites sprung up to criticise the referee for the way he handled Australia's 11-9 quarter-final win over South Africa in Wellington last weekend, which put the defending champions out of the tournament.
Lawrence told the Herald he believed his direct number had now been taken down. And he appeared to react rather better to the unwanted calls than many Springbok fans did to their side's defeat, saying: "Well, these things happen. It's one of these things in life."
Many observers felt Lawrence was lenient in his refereeing of the breakdown area, where Australian openside flanker David Pocock incurred some criticism for his style of play. Retiring Springbok captain John Smit and South African referees manager Andre Watson, himself a former World Cup final referee, stoked the ill-feeling towards the Kiwi whistle-blower.
"The one positive of (retirement) is that I won't ever have to be reffed by him again," Smit said on his return to South Africa. And Watson said: "I do not believe we will see him (Lawrence) in the Rugby World Cup again." However, New Zealand great Colin Meads, writing in the Herald, accused the South Africans of "terrible sour grapes" and said there would have been no fuss if they had scored from their late drop-goal attempt and won the game.
"I could tell you a few stories about South African referees in the past. But it's just sour grapes," he said. Irish referee Alain Rolland will be in charge of Saturday's World Cup semi-final between France and Wales at Auckland's Eden Park while, 24 hours later at the same ground, South Africa's Craig Joubert will oversee New Zealand's clash with Australia.