The British & Irish Lions have been left outraged following a decision to appoint a South African as the Television Match Official (TMO) for the first Test against the Springboks on Saturday.
Marius Jonker was appointed to the role for the entire series after New Zealand’s Brendon Pickerill was forced to withdraw due to COVID-19 pandemic-related travel issues.
Jonker was the TMO for the Lions’ 17-13 defeat against South Africa ‘A’ in which South African scrum-half Faf de Klerk was controversially not sent off for a dangerous tackle that resulted in only a yellow card.
Sources close to the Lions indicated they were informed of the decision on Wednesday leaving head coach Warren Gatland furious that there could be no neutral TMO for the opening game of the series.
According to World Rugby, who appointed the officials for the series, flying in an alternative TMO was not possible due to various COVID-19 restrictions.
World Rugby used ‘home’ TMOs during the Rugby Championship last year, however, a referee would not officiate in a match involving their own country.
Reports suggest that the Lions are pressuring World Rugby to appoint a neutral TMO for the second and third Tests of the series.
Nic Berry of Australia will referee the first Test, with the New Zealand’s Ben O’Keeffe and France’s Mathieu Raynal as his assistants.
(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)