Boks' great record with referee Barnes will count for nothing against Italy‚ says Proudfoot

Referee Wayne Barnes during the Rugby World Cup match between Georgia and Uruguay at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium on September 29 2019 in Kumagaya, Saitama, Japan.
Referee Wayne Barnes during the Rugby World Cup match between Georgia and Uruguay at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium on September 29 2019 in Kumagaya, Saitama, Japan.
Image: Stu Forster/Getty Images

The Springboks have won 10 of their 13 Tests with Wayne Barnes as the man with the whistle.

That 77 win percentage is a more than decent return in anyone’s book.

By way of comparison with Nigel Owens in charge 11 of the Boks’ 18 Tests ended in victory.

With Jérôme Garcès as the man in the middle‚ the Boks have won just four of their 14 Tests.

Clearly‚ as they excel under some referees‚ they struggle with others‚ so you would think with Barnes as the 31st man on the pitch in their crunch Rugby World Cup (RWC) pool B match against Italy on Friday they’d at least feel a small degree of comfort.

“I don’t think we even think about that‚” said assistant coach Matt Proudfoot as he poured cold water on that theory.

“Nothing is left to chance in this team. We’ve got specific plans.

"So much is going on behind the scenes. Just because we have a decent record with the guy means nothing.

“We will have a specific plan with how we deal with Wayne.

"Communicate with him about what he is looking for. How we get information from him. That is the important part‚ not his record."

It is Proudfoot’s contention that the Boks have their favourable record with Barnes in charge because of the quality of the official.

By the same logic Garcès would be at the other end of the scale.

“We have a good record with him because he is a good referee. He makes good decisions. He is a clear communicator.

"When a referee is like that you have a good record with him because you can adapt. He is the CEO‚ the boss‚ so we have to meet what he wants from the game‚" argued Proudfoot.

While the Wallabies have been left to lament the influence of Romain Poite and his fellow match officials following their defeat to Wales‚ Proudfoot was happy to have a northern hemisphere official in a match against a Six Nations’ combatant.

"It is nice that it comes with a northern hemisphere flavour‚" Proudfoot said.

"(He is) a great communicator‚ Wayne Barnes. It’s going to be real good contest. He is a sharp referee‚ and is well respected world wide."

The forwards coach pointed to Barnes’ wait and see attitude at the breakdown.

“He likes a bit of a challenge at the breakdown.

"Every referee has their own idiosyncrasy about how he sees the challenge‚ and that’s fine. We accept that as long as it is the same for both teams. Players adapt to that very quickly.

“As long as he is communicating you see a picture.

"If you watched the (last) game carefully you would have heard Francois (Louw) talking to the referee. That is the adaptation we are looking for. I thought we did that well.”

Barnes will be assistant referee in Wednesday’s clash between France and the United States in Fukuoka.

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