Springboks coach Allister Coetzee has plans to meet with Nigel Owens ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash with the Wallabies, describing the Welshman as one of the world’s best referees.
Coetzee confirmed on Thursday he requested a pre-match meeting with Owens and under World Rugby regulations, an invitation must now be extended to Michael Cheika and the Australian coaching staff to join them.
After their Bledisloe Cup defeat in Wellington last month, a “bitterly disappointed” Cheika accused referee Romain Poite and Owens – the whistelblower in last year’s World Cup final – of having preconceived ideas about Australian players and ignoring approaches from captain Stephen Moore.
“I think it’s just great to, even if you don’t discuss any technical stuff, just to say hi to the guy and meet him before the game,” Coetzee told reporters in Brisbane on Thursday.
“Nigel is definitely one of the world’s best referees.
“I think the players enjoy Nigel on the field, the way he communicates, it’s loud and clear and when he doesn’t communicate you must know you are doing the right things on the field.
“It will be a big contest at the breakdown because Nigel allows a fair contest.”
Cheika does not usually meet with referees before Tests but it would be a wise move given recent events surrounding the Wallabies and match officials.
The Australian Rugby Union filed a complaint to World Rugby against New Zealand, alleging their coach Steve Hansen secretly met with Poite before the All Blacks’ 29-9 win at Westpac Stadium.
Hansen had actually met with Jaco Peyper, who was the referee in the first Bledisloe Cup Test a week earlier and an assistant to Poite in Wellington.
Moore, meanwhile, is under pressure to improve his demeanour in on-field discussions with referees after a number of recent run-ins with officials.
His opposite number, Springboks captain Adriaan Strauss, already has a good relationship with Owens, according to Coetzee.
“I’d like to say yes,” he said.
“Nigel, it doesn’t matter the different personalities, he’s quite astute and emotionally intelligent to handle different captains.”