Lawrence speaks about South African hate

Last updated 13:25 16/11/2011
Bryce Lawrence
ROSS GIBLIN/The Dominion Post
CONTROVERSIAL: Kiwi referee Bryce Lawrence was heavily criticised for his handling of the South Africa v Australia quarterfinal.

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New Zealand rugby referee Bryce Lawrence says he won't put himself at risk by officiating in South Africa if the hate campaign there continues against him.

Lawrence has been hit by criticism of his World Cup quarterfinal performance as the Wallabies knocked out the defending champion Springboks in Wellington 11-9.

Fan, players and administrators in the rugby-mad republic ripped into Lawrence, blaming him for their loss. It got nasty and personal including a Facebook campaign entitled titled "Petition To Stop Bryce Lawrence Ever Reffing A Rugby Game Again".

With Lawrence on the Super Rugby refereeing panel, the prospect of him blowing the whistle in South Africa emerges.

"I'm not totally concerned. I know a lot of other people like the New Zealand Rugby Union and SANZAR do have some serious concerns. In all honesty I'm not going to go over there if there's any personal threat or I have concerns about my safety because in the end it's a job, I know that, and also it's just a sport so I'm not going to put myself at risk," Lawrence told Radiosport today.

"I refereed the final last year, I've refereed a lot of playoff games so that level is something I'm more than capable of refereeing. I'll referee South African teams in Super Rugby, it may be in Australia or New Zealand that I referee them and I'm sure the criticism will resurface every time I do referee them."

Lawrence said the game still haunts him.

"It hasn't been the greatest four or six weeks of my life ... in all honesty there isn't a day goes by even now that I don't think about what I could have done better and how it's affecting me and what it means for me going forward. It's still very fresh and probably pretty raw really.

Lawrence admits he has had a tough time digesting his World Cup performance. After a bright start to the tournament he was blighted by his quarterfinal effort.

"I was disappointed with some aspects in my own performance that day after referring four really pretty strong games in pool play. I'm not blaming anyone for the quarterfinal referring display apart from myself. I didn't referee as well as I could," Lawrence said.

"I was pretty relaxed going into that game, and Australia - South Africa I have refereed numerous times in the last few years at Tri-Nations level so the game didn't scare me or concern me.

"I just think I went away from what I'm best at. I'm best when I'm pretty decisive and reasonably technical and tactical - and I just went too much down the tactical side of things where I was really trying to minimise making technical errors.

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"I got criticised heavily and some of that I accept because I know I could have done better.

"My quarterfinal performance created a lot of negative reaction in South Africa, pretty hostile, very personal, very harsh. Also on the flipside of that I got a lot of really strong positive support from rugby people in New Zealand and around the world who probably know me a little bit more than the people in South Africa and were feeling for me during that time."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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