The decision to have a South African as the Television Match Official for the first Test against the Springboks in Cape Town has enraged the British and Irish Lions.
After New Zealander Brendon Pickerill was unable to travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Marius Jonker was chosen.
According to Lions sources, they were only informed of the switch on Wednesday. Saturday’s kickoff time at Cape Town Stadium is 17:00 BST.
The tourists believe there should have been a backup plan in place for a neutral official.
Jonker, who was the TMO for the Lions’ recent match against South Africa A, will be the TMO for the rest of the Lions’ series against the Springboks.
Lions manager Warren Gatland is said to be enraged by the decision, with Lions sources saying they were “astonished” to learn of the switch so late.
According to World Rugby, who appointed the series’ officials, flying in an alternate TMO was not possible due to various Covid-19 restrictions.
‘Home’ TMOs were used during the Rugby Championship last year. The match will be officiated by Australian Nic Berry, who will be assisted by Kiwi Ben O’Keeffe and Frenchman Mathieu Raynal in Cape Town.
Following the Lions’ 17-13 loss to the Springboks, Aside from that, Gatland stated that scrum-half Faf de Klerk should have been sent off for making head contact with Josh Navidi, and South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus later took to social media to praise Owen Farrell’s tackle technique.
The Lions series in New Zealand in 2017 was decided by a red card for All Blacks center Sonny Bill Williams, with the Lions capitalizing on their numerical advantage to come from behind to win the second Test in Wellington.
With officials continuing to crack down on foul play and head contact, a red card in the upcoming Lions-World Cup champions series is a distinct possibility.