Jonathan Kaplans imbalanced Waratahs Super 14 statistics

Refereeing imbalance? Try Kaplan for size

Refereeing imbalance? Try Kaplan for size

The public standing down of Super 14 referee Paul “Skid” Marks this week for “imbalance from a management perspective” seems to have marked a new official openness in discussing referee performance. If that’s the case, I’d like like to submit to the SANZAR panel a piece of evidence for long-term referee imbalance that’s far more conclusive than the footage of Kurtley’s knock on last weekend.

In the table below is a summary of Jonathan Kaplan’s Super rugby refereeing history with the Waratahs, together with a few comparisons.

G&GR kaplan stats 2

The first thing you’ll notice is that with Kaplan having been in charge of 15 Waratahs games over the years, they’ve managed to win one solitary, game, and that was at home. Compared with the Waratahs win ratio both home and away over this period, this is beyond “imbalanced”.

Now, if you take any referee’s stats for a single team over a short time (say, less than 10 games) you will find discrepancies – that’s just averages for you. Even in the teens, you’ll see variations from the norm for all experienced refs (the Brumbies have won 80% of their matches under Stu Dickenson*). But of all the referee historical performances, at these levels, only one is skewed out of balance so remarkably, and it is Kaplan’s.

So, if the SANZAR referees are happy to publicly strip a referee of his panel membership over one or two calls that were not straight forward (as the debate on this site has demonstrated), surely they must act where the proof is conclusive and unequivocal?

We look forward to more public and open debate, but aren’t holding our breath.

*Note that these will be Australian derbies over a period where the Brumbies were very strong

Some commentators have asserted that these stats are skewed because Kaplan could only have reffed Australian teams against New Zealand teams. This puzzles me, because it assumes that all Kiwi teams have been overly difficult to beat, and all South African teams easier to beat. Interesting, considering these comments so far have mainly been from IP addresses from South Africa.

A way to test this theory is to look at all other refs that we have data for over the Waratahs (those refs in the Super 14 as of 2009), especially the South Africans. Here’s what you get:

G&GR ref waratah stats

Even though there are very few refs with enough matches under their belts to draw too many conclusions from, I noticed two things:

1- The other South African referees are in line with the Tahs win average, so it doesn’t have anything to do with playing New Zealand teams

2 – If it hadn’t been for Kaplan, who knows where the Tahs might have got to! (OK, semi-joking).


  • chief

    justice for skid

    Question time

    Why wasn’t Mark Lawrence dressed down for costing a actual try when refereeing the Brumbies match a few weeks ago?
    Why was Damien Mitchelmore (AR) stood down from a match due to forgetting a number of a player guilty of foul play, and Jonathan Kaplan, Steve Walsh, Craig Joubert have all ‘forgot’ to follow the rule book and yellow card players for committing that particular offense (refer to law 10.2)

    And now someone please tell me why Paul Marks has lost his job because he didn’t award a Penalty Try 25 metres out from the try line? Another unbalanced assessment of an Australian referee, bought to you by another New Zealander.

  • Justice 4 Kaplan …It is only recently that local refs have been given the chance to ref local teams. Perhaps SANZAR needs to go back to having refs that dont come from the same country as the teams playing.

  • Joostie

    It has been said by the dudes who canned him that Skids needs to work on some aspects of his game. The Sharks debarcle, having been covered so extensively by the Super Rugby faithfull, was just another questionable decision made by the man.

    He’ll come back a better ref for it. No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, even Kaplan, considered by most rugby circles to be the best ref in the world right now. So what if he doesn’t dig the Tahs’ at home and even more so when they’re away? (Joke alert good people of

    • Gumby

      Kaplan considered the best Ref in the world? Please….

  • Joel

    Wow! Agree that the stats are damning. I would like to see who those games were against though. Maybe there are 6 crusaders matches, 2 brumbies and 2 bulls matches from their eras of dominance?

    Did you also see that Pro Legoate was stood down as well? Must be for his punishing of Captain Fantastic at the scrums.

    • Whilst I agree with you Gagger about Kaplan v Tahs we do need to see who these games were against.
      We have to eliminate other strong possibilities before we say that it is Kaplan for sure.

  • Justice 4 Skid

    “Kaplan considered by most rugby circles to be the best ref in the world right now”, i’m out of the loop.

    I think this is again a reflection on SANZAR who seem incapable of consistency. From referees to the Judiciary… shame shame shame

    Gagger, nicely said

    • Ian

      Consistancy ?? Nonu with a spear tackle and not even cited. I can recall several citings and bannings for far lesser offenses.

  • Tombstone

    Lets not even ‘wink wink’ Stevie Walsh.

  • Brendan

    Kaplan is the strictest referee at the breakdown, and Dean Mumms and Phil Waugh are blatent cheats at the breakdown. This could be an indication that he is a good referee as he doesn’t shy away from penalising cheating players. It just shows how daft your comments are on stats. Rather watch each game and point out where he erred. Added to that, Kaplan would only get called up to referee Kiwi vs Ozzie games in the past, so have you looked at the Waratahs stats against the Kiwi teams over the years of his “blatent” bias against the Waratahs. Stats only tell the full story when read with all the stats.

    • Dear Brendan from South Africa,

      So the only “blatant cheats” at the breakdown since 1996 have been in the Waratahs? By the way, Phil and Dean weren’t even playing back then.

      And if it were for some reason because these were all Kiwi teams, why would Craig Joubert’s (also an RSA ref) numbers above be in line with the Tahs average, but not Kaplan’s?

      • Cam178

        Referees are supposed to be unbiased. Which I interpret as being fair to both teams. Refs must not be subjective, they are there to be objective, all having exactly the same awareness between themselves of the infringements of the mighty game. If they miss a blatent violation etc Asst Refs on both sides of the field would pick up. If all games are judged similarly then the players are happy, spectators are happy (players would carry the onus of a poor game). I would expect that any referee that had statistics akin to Kaplan would be sent back to Ref school.

    • Gumby

      Brendan you need to take your eye patch off and try bifocal vision. Kaplan has been a joke for a long time.

      Further. The stats would seem to imply that he is a cheat as Waugh & Mumm don’t get overly hammered by other referees. Or are you saying Kaplan is the only referee who fights for truth, justice blah, blah. Absolute bollocks.

      Stop defending the indefensible.

  • Ian

    Lies , lies and statistics. I guess selective use of stats can be made to fit a particular point of view and that is what has been done here. Well said Brendan and I guess my view is that Kaplan is one of the better refs around. You could as easily make the case that Stu Dickinson has given the Brumbies an easy ride and should be booted out (80% win quoted above ) and in my opinion he is a shocker.

    • Dear Ian from South Africa,

      Please read my reply to Brendan, as well as my foot note about the Brumbies

      • Ian

        Yep and I guess using these stats Dickenson has given Brunbies 80% wins and Waratahs 100%. Possibly some highlighting of performance is needed here ?. I guess my point is that stats are notoriously mallable. It would be better to pinpoint specific error rates or some other more relevant measurement. PS When I supported Brendan it was in terms of questioning the stats not his comments re Waugh etc

        • Hey, I’m happy for Dickenson to also get looked at. This isn’t a country specific thing. Although I believe they’d find that the Brumbies have done pretty well against the other Aussie teams over the past decade and that his percentage wouldn’t be outta whack. At least it’s not 93% to start with.

          As stated in the article, his 100% Tah stat isn’t relevant on its own as he’s only reffed 4 games, 3 of which were at home.

          Just because you don’t like stats, doesn’t make them wrong. I don’t like my bank balance, but it isn’t lying to me.

      • Paul

        Yes Gagger….we’re the crooks Sa fans remember well the Email between NZ ans Aussie refs saying …”we’ll teach these Jaapies a lesson”…use all the stats for all games then we can discuss this issue…selective stats can be misleading !

      • Gregor

        Kaplan is the best referee in the southern hemisphere. He only ever refs the Tahs in matches against the Saders, Bulls etc, basically superior sides that’s why they lose. I hope your little sob storyl makes you feel better though. P.s. People who only ever see themselves as victims in life never succeed.

  • BokBasher

    Stats mean squat. According to stats on humans the average human has one breast and one testicle…unless you are Skid and you have 2 and none.

    • I tend to find that 100% of stats you don’t like are shit

      • El Dommo

        HAHA Gagger…beautiful.

        Got to say though…another level of analysis would be the opposition in Kaplan reffed games…Kiwi teams is too broad…if it was Waikato (up until 2008 i guess) and Hihglanders all the time, well then thats questionable…but Canes, Blues (a few years ago anyway)and obv crusaders (including a 90 odd – who cares scoreline some years ago)…then maybe there is a variable that should not be overlooked

        have to say though…i like Kaplan as a referee…not about to get into the consipracy theory about the Tahs though…

    • Alex-A

      are you an idiot?
      who gave this a thumbs up?

  • Langthorne

    So Brendan, what you are saying is that Kaplan is the ONLY referee that is any good? as the ‘correct’ win-loss ratio under Kaplan has been skewed by the laxity of the other refs?

    There has never been a game where any referee got absolutely everything ‘right’, and whilst we expect them to try to approach perfection I think it is dangerous to start dropping referees in reaction to those who whinge the loudest (almost? always the losers).

  • cliffytahtah

    Solid post Gagger. Do you know what Kaplans stats are reffing the Wallabies? Do you have anyone at SANZAR that can get rid of the prick? That Palu sin bin against Ireland still gives me the shits.

    • Gumby

      Excellent summation and question Cliffy. We haven’t had a good public “Tar & Feathering” for a long time and if anyone deserves it Kaplan does.

  • Robson

    I’ve gotta say that I don’t find the stats table in this case very convincing. It’s a very narrow sample – percentage of games won by two Oz team under two different RSA refs. There is a lot more that goes on in a game of rugby than the end result.

    We don’t usually judge a ref by the final result, but by the management of incidents which could have contributed to the final result. So I think there is a bit more work to do here if we want to produce evidence of refereeing competence.

    • How many more games would the Tahs have to lose under Kaplan before you thought there might be an “imbalance”?

      • Robson

        Well I would hope not too many. But you would need to focus on more than just the result of a series of matches to produce a convincing story. I’m not neccessarily disagreeing with the hypothesis, I’m just saying that it needs more substance.

        • Robbo – what else do you need to see? I could give you a list of things Kaplan’s done in games that defy belief, but they would be from my perspective.

          What these stats incontrovertibly show is that there’s a link between Jonathan Kaplan refereeing and the Tahs losing. How or why he does it can be another discussion, but the fact that it happens is still there

        • Stu Dicker’s

          For our esteemed Southern African Friends….

          Impossible to dispute; unquestionable: incontrovertible proof of the defendant’s innocence.

    • Robson

      Yeah, agreed, there does appear to be a link between the Tahs losing and Kaplan refereeing.

      I’m probably asking for more than a link to be shown to me. For instance videos of the scrummaging schamozzle that Joubert officiated over with the Wallabies last year, which led to poor old Al Baxter getting shafted takes a link and turns it into documentary proof.

      Having said all that I am disappointed with Jonothan Kaplan because I’ve always regarded him highly.

      • Gumby

        Absolutely agree with you on the Baxter assassination. But Kaplan’s imbalance stands out like an infected wound and needs to be treated.

  • Joostie

    I’m starting to wish Beale just intercepted that iffy Terbs pass and then proceeded to leave an impact crater under the posts. A fair amount of bitching could have so easily been avoided in doing so and average refs the world over would have been safe once more.

    Dry your eyes fella’s. Bring on round 5!

  • Hawko

    Anyone who has done any statistical work would tell you that the numbers show an imbalance beyond reasonable doubt (95% confidence levels to be technical). This should have been addressed by the panel years ago when it was first evident that it was getting out of control, now its just a train wreck. Just imagine what the other super 14 team is going to say when Kaplan next ref’s the Tah’s and they win – it was just a square-up (if it ever happens mind you). Just imagine what the mindset in the Tah’s dressing room will be if they make the final away against the Bulls this year and Kaplan gets the gig. Based on performances so far the Tah’s are not looking likely, but if it happened it would be a nightmare result from a “seen-to-be fair” position.

    Some posters have suggested that Kaplan has been very strict at the breakdown and this has caused the statistical anomaly. I think the reason is far more subtle. When NSW had a strong lineout (please come back Vicks) Kaplan allowed the Crusaders to throw every ball down their side, negating the Tah’s natural advantage. Deliberately? I don’t think so, he just wanted the game to “flow”, which is one of his themes. That was the most obvious problem but there were others where “flow” became synonymous with negating a Tah’s strength.

    The same sort of issue had me screaming at the screen when Jonkers did the Tahs/Bulls game. The Tahs dominant scrum went totally unrewarded, the Bulls offended or collapsed it to stop going backwards and cleared the ball. Great to let the game flow you say; yes, but totally disadvantaging the Tahs.

    The panel has tended not to appoint Kaplan to Tah games over the last couple of years, but that’s only delaying the inevitable. He’s the number one ref and is going to get the final. If and when the Tahs next make it, the problem will be a monster. There are only two ways out: don’t appoint him to Tah’s games full stop or give him Tah games now and have the panel go through each with him, counselling him in how to be fair. He has a natural, unconscious bias against the Tahs, the statistics are incontrovertible. Contrary to the proverb, statistics are all about identifying differences from the norm and they don’t lie.

    • Robson

      Your comments about the lineout (Vickerman v Crusaders) are well made. I recall those anomalies myself. It is stuff like this that puts the cat right among the canaries.

      However, there is a new transparent mischief brewing with the managament of referees and it’s long overdue. My only worry is that the imbalance perceived among the refs on the paddock will now shift to imbalance among the refs masters as they sit around in conclave on things.

      It seems that only the Oz refs have come in for censure so far. Am I right in that? It’s the feeling I have, but I may be wrong.

      • Batmann

        And let’s not forget Paddy O’Brien’s public dressing down of Stu after the AB v France game recently.

        • Stu Dicker’s

          That really pissed me off…

        • Patrick

          He should have been sacked for that. That was abysmal.

    • El Dommo

      as Homer Simpson said…statistics can be used to prove anything Kent….70% of people know that.

    • Mike

      Although the stats look convincing, the are not by any means “Incontrovertible”. 95% confidence interval? What a load of crap. ie unknown opposition, too many variables etc.

      However, let it be known that prior to all this Kaplan bashing, I did hate watching him ref Aus matches (international or S14) as he does seem to favour the opposition at crunch times. That mention of the yellow for the legitimate thumping tackle by Cliffy (vs Ireland) brought that feeling right back.

      • Nabley

        Mike you seem to forget that Kaplan’s first Test was the Bledisloe decider in Wellington where Eels kick the last second winning penalty that resulted from an offence that did not occur or if it did, followed an earlier offence by Gregan kicking the ball back into the ruck while waiting for the troops to arrived. Made worse by being 8 mins overtime. I think the Kiwi’s have some complaints too. Lets face it refs make mistakes, but so do players.

  • Joe Mac

    What about his results against the Wallabies? I cant remember a game he ref’d that we won?

    Im sure if you looked at those stats, it would be around the same as for the Tah’s

    • Joe Mac

      Gagger can you look into this one for us?

      • ADC

        Agreed, the Wallabies have a very low win rate when Kaplan is referring.

        You could break it down further and look at penalties awarded for and against the Wallabies/Tahs/Aussie teams when Kaplan is ref. I think it would show a significant bias.

      • Haven’t found where you can get these stats. Believe me I’ve looked!

  • chief

    What alarms me the most, is that it is a World Cup next year, and I am worried for the Australian games that we will get Kaplan. That is god damn alarming, as we will literally have a small chance of success.

    • Robson

      What you seem to be saying is that there is a witch hunt being conducted by some refs (well – one at least) against Oz teams. I seriously hope that this is not the case, because if it is, it needs to be dug out and fast.

      • chief

        Not a witch hunt, look at the success rate under Kaplan. It’s not always his fault, it can be how we adpat to his refereeing.

        • Gumby

          The only way we could adapt to Kaplan is to not turn up.

    • Paul

      The Aussies have a small chance of success anyway !!!

  • Pedro

    I wonder what the tahs admin thinks of this. You would assume they would know.

    • Batmann

      I recall Link saying a while back that he never usually bothered to talk to the ref’s before the game, but with Kaplan he made an exception because they seem to be in a no win situation no matter what they did.

  • Choo Choo

    Brumbies have won 97 games by my count.

  • Nabley

    Gagger, you protest one eyed too much. The Tahs really have played some crap rugby over the years when they have equally promised much. Whoever was going to ref them was going to get blamed by the likes of you.

    • Whoever was going to ref them was going to get blamed by the likes of you.

      The rugby style is irrelevant.

      Plenty of refs have reffed them. How many others have stats like this? None.

      Man up Nabley. You’re too easy

      • Nabley

        Gagger, You have gagged again. Who mention style of rugby. I said they have played some crap rugby over the years and thats got nothing to do with style, but team ability.

        Without going to the record, I would say you can count on one hand how many sucessful years they have had in the Super competition. They have the players, but for whatever reason they have difficulty in stringing a good game together. Historically, whoever refs them, is going to stand a good chance of refing them as a loosing team.

        • Without going to the record,

          Well if you read the fucken post you’d see the record in the table. To make it easier for you:

          Tahs win ’96-’09: 54%
          Under Kaplan ’96-’09: 7%
          Under Craig Joubert: 50%
          Under Mark Lawrence: 63%
          Under Marius Jonker: 60%

          If you can’t understand that, I can’t help you.

    • El Dommo

      for a team who played crap rugby, making the finals 3/4 seasons and missing out throgh points difference last year are some fair results for a team playing crap rugby…

      do you even watch the games?

      even i know they played well in the seasons they have made the finals…well, at least well enough to get in there with a chance

      I cant say taht…and i HATE NSW…

  • CliffyTahTah

    At the end of the day it doesnt help that the guy is a dickehead either.

  • Pedro

    Homer says fourfty percent!

  • brendan

    Kaplan has always been harsh at the breakdown, and it happens in the Currie Cup here as well. So don’t think he is particularly harsh on the Waratahs. Players like Heinrich Brussow gets away with a lot more under other referees than he does with Kaplan. My team the Sharks constantly get penalised for slowing ball down by Kaplan but other refs have allowed it. So my point is the problem is more of no consistency between refs. In a perfect world all refs will blow every infringement in the game and not target specific areas. Other areas you need to take into account are Waratahs get great stats from Kiwi refs, because they blow games against SA teams that have a shocking touring record and only two of the 5 teams perform well in any given year. To compare him to Joubert is also harsh. Joubert has half the experience of Kaplan and is more technical in terms of set pieces. Joubert could have also reffed the Waratahs Highlanders games. My final point is Waratahs have a history of starting well and then blowing gaskets. Did Kaplan ref most those games in the start of the seasons or did he ref more of the end of the season games when Waratahs were on their downward slide. Just to many factors to take in.

    Upon watching the game, Banks was binned for a lot more than the intercept. He missed numerous forward passes by both teams, he missed knock ons. And to be fair, had Jannie indeed tripped as the Touch judge had said, Jannie should have been red carded (eventhough the replay showed the touch judge got it wrong). After watching the game again I would say both teams should have had their points deducted for serving the audience such crap.

  • brendan

    If you want blatent cheating by a ref that went unpunished take a look at Steve Walsh’s handling of the Brumbies Lions game. He is lucky he was on the plane to SA or his arse would have been kicked out the same door as Banks.

  • Just a Fan

    O please…this is the Waratahs after all – the don’t play any better than those stats.

  • jacques

    writer of article is either blinded by national patriotism (let’s defend an Aussie even if he is incompetent) or is just simply trying to create a stir and get as many people as possible to read his article; i think you would find that Kaplan has a similar record against other teams. Some teams, like the Waratahs, just simply dont adjust to his strict interpretation of the breakdown.

    • I think if you look at the stats you’ll see you’re talking rubbish. He doesn’t have a similar record versus other teams. Just the Tahs.

      I’m not defending anyone, just pointing out the obvious about Kaplan. You need to get over where he’s from and admit the facts

  • AJ

    And Kaplan is not incompetent? Compare these two calls by him last november against ireland
    Palu (yellow card)
    Kearney (no yellow card)

    • brendan

      so he is the only ref in rugby that gets it wrong. so we now have a youtube hate site.
      the problem in rugby union is there are far too many laws, 30 players all cheating and one poor sucker stuck in the middle with incompetent assistent referees.

      look at the ireland france football game that lost ireland a place in the fwc. football has 3 laws and 22 players and the refs can’t get that right. you have to feel for the poor bastard in the middle of a rugby field.

  • Bobas

    Anyone remember that Palu yellow card? not a breakdown ruling was it.

    Gagger has successfully put all my rage into a non slanderous post and hence, should be congratulated by all Australians.

    Thumb up on this comment for Gagger.

  • Very good comparison, any chance of a comparison chart of Kaplan with the Wallabies and Kaplan in international games?

  • jacques

    strange to hear aussies complain about a sa ref; if there is one person we sa’s (not that i want to speak for all south africans) to see retire then it is S Dickenson. I wonder if you would mind to bring his record up (SA teams against anyone else). I would be suprise if South African teams have won more than 2% of those games. we just struggle to adapt to his interpretations;

    • Waratah

      South Africa owe the 2007 WCup win to none other than Stu Dickenson (aka the dick)

      Stuey was the TMO who quite rightly, got it right.

  • JJJ

    I’m definitely on the Kaplan hate-train, but sheer perversity forces me to ask whether his record has perhaps become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy? In other words, the waratahs find out that Kraplan is reffing them and so put in a sub-par performance because they’re convinced he won’t let them win anyway. Perhaps he called a couple of dodgy games early on, then they played a couple of strong teams in a row under him, and after that his reputation was made.

    Ok, I don’t believe it either. I do remember being appalled at the reffing of the Ireland game — both for the yellow card and for the way he didn’t penalize Ireland for anything in the final 15 mins but pinged Aus every time they got their hands on the ball.

    Is there any way I can find out which games he will be reffing Aussie teams in for the coming months?

  • JJJ

    Did a search on “kaplan phil waugh” on google and came up with this account of the Tahs match vs Bulls last season, which is extremely disparaging of his reffing:

    I’m quietly confident there was no official rebuke though.

  • RJT

    I think this entire conversation is pointless… When did the focus shift from referee determining the outcome of a match to players and teams earning the win?!

    We have to accept that where-ever rugby is played over the world, there is going to be different styles of rugby… And the same goes with refereeing, some refs are harder on some aspects of the games than others… Simply because of their exposure.

    I am South African and strongly believe that the Sharks did not deserve the win and nor did that player deserve a yellow card, nevermind a penalty try. Where does a failed intercept become a delibrate knock-on? He had to take on two players so cleverly rather went for the ball… He also never hit the ball down but tried to hit it up to catch it.

    So I think the ref was dealt a bad deal in that boat…

    As for Kaplan determining the outcome of the Waratahs games: I personally have not noticed this until the stats were posted here, however I bet if we had to watch those matches again, we would find no serious fault on his side to show bias.

    However I have notice in OTHER referee’s refereeing other top games that the styles of the team and the style of the referee can clash horribly…

    • Paul

      RJT – nice try but the Aussies won’t give you a Visa for ths B&llsH*t !

  • Gregor

    If this article to mean anything at all Gagger has to list the matches his talking about, i.e. Who did the Tahs play in the 15 matches, I bet that half where against the Crusaders. They’ve been raping the Tahs for years, home and away and that’s not Kaplans fault, it’s just caus they’re a superior side, and they’ll prove it again this weekend. This whole article is pathetic, I can’t recall a match where the Tahs’ ever claimed that Kaplan blatantly cheated them. Just caus they lose when he refs doesn’t mean he screws them. And yes Gagger, Kaplans stats are gonna be different caus for the better part of the last decade he was the best referee in the Southern Hemisphere and never had time to blow Tah games against rubble like the the Highlanders, Force,Cheetahs or Lions. Anyway

  • Bull

    hang all the refs…start with the SA refs….but dont forget all those other scumbags!
    Cape Town


Matt started G&GR just before the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been enslaved ever since. Follow him on twitter: @MattRowley

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