WITH SATURDAY’S QUARTER-FINAL between Ireland and Wales almost certain to be decided around the breakdown, a lot will be riding on how referee Craig Joubert calls the shots.
So that we all have some idea of what to expect, here are eight things which you might not have known about the South African referee.
You probably don’t need us to tell you which ones are the most relevant.
1. #EARLY START Joubert took up refereeing at 14 after he was injured while playing with his school side. His father, a referee, convinced him to try it out as a way of keeping up with the large number of changes which were being made to the game’s rules at the time.
2. #BANKER Before becoming a full-time referee, Joubert used to work in corporate banking; now he spends most of his time working out in the gym.
3. #ENGAGE Asked about the toughest part of the game to referee, Joubert picked out the scrum. “I never played in the front row and I’m on a constant learning process as to the dark underworld of front row play,” he said.
4. #OOPS According to the man himself, his worst mistake as a referee came during a 2008 Bledisloe Cup test between Australia and New Zealand in Sydney. With the match finely poised, he failed to award a penalty when All Blacks winger Sitiveni Sivivatu was taken out off the ball five yards from the line and only realised his mistake when he caught the replay on the big screen. Australia went on to win 34-19.
5. #FAMILIAR This is his first World Cup, but he’s already refereed Ireland twice (against the USA and against Russia), so the team should have any idea of what to expect around the breakdown and in the scrums.
6. #STICKLER Although he’s usually quite strict in his policing of the breakdown, Joubert seemed surprisingly unwilling to get involved during Ireland’s match against the USA, allowing the Americans to slow the ball by going in off their feet time after time.
7. #ADVANTAGE On the basis of his four pool games, Joubert is seen one of the more consistent referees at this year’s tournament. One of his rare slips worked in Ireland’s favour when he let Tommy Bowe’s try against Russia stand despite a strong hint of a forward pass by Keith Earls in the build-up.
8. #FORE! He’s quite a handy golfer, proud of the fact that he once played off a handicap of seven and that he’s managed two holes-in-one.