Gardner relishing final appointment

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    01 Aug 2018     Getty Images

Wayne Erickson gained a special place in the competition's history books by controlling the first Super Rugby final in 1996, a win for the Blues over the Sharks.

Initially, neutral referees were required for finals but in 2008 the system changed for referees to be appointed on merit and that is how Angus Gardner has gained his appointment for Christchurch's final between the Crusaders and Lions on Saturday.

Gardner told that it was humbling being appointed to the final.

"You just pinch yourself and think 'wow, I am involved at the important part of the tournament with great players' and it's just a massive honour really."

Gardner felt his appointment was testimony to the refereeing programme in Australia.

He hadn't been affected by the fallout from his decision to red card Frenchman Benjamin Fall in the second All Blacks v France Test which had been over-ruled by World Rugby's independent judiciary.

That decision and the following sending off of Sunwolves flanker Ed Quirk against the Reds had resulted in changed thinking.

Sanzaar decided the TMO should be called on only for big ticket decisions.

"The influence of the TMOs, it is kind of driven on a case-by-case basis, and it is really the responsibility of the on-field referee to lead in terms of the referral process and what we actually want to have a look at.

"It was good having Sanzaar come out and support that we are really only looking for the big ticket items. To be fair, at finals time the fans and people watching the game, we don't want the game slowed down," Gardner said.

"They come to see a flowing game and I suppose that's where us as referees want to fit in, really; making sure we are getting the things that matter in the game and not bogging the game down unnecessarily for minor things that happen as part of the game, and that people accept as part of the game," he said.

The perfect scenario for Gardner, he said, would be not to be in the spotlight and to have no-one mention his name afterwards.

But even before flying out for Christchurch from Johannesburg Lions coach Swys de Bruin was highlighting the decision to have two New Zealand assistant referees and the TMO to back Gardner. It was felt last year's finals referee Jaco Peyper could have been used as an assistant, especially after refereeing last weekend's semifinal in Christchurch.

De Bruin expressed concern at how the Crusaders rush defence was allowed to creep onto the attacking team. He wants to ensure the offside line is ruled to the letter of the law.

"We will have a good meeting with the refs before the game and offside lines apply for both sides. They can't, because they are champions and people think they are good, get away with certain stuff. And I will make sure we meet with the refs about that," he said.

The Crusader got away with a lot and he would be raising his concerns with the referees.

"We need a fair deal, all we ask is a fair deal and I hope we will get it," he said.