Boks unravel in Auckland

2013-09-15 10:00

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Disgruntled SA supporters take to social media to petition against French referee Romain Poite

A pair of clearly erroneous decisions by French referee Romain Poite disfigured this eagerly anticipated test match between rugby’s greatest rivals and sent the Springboks crashing to defeat.

Poite’s shocking rulings, especially in the first half, robbed the Boks of the massive presence of their hooker Bismarck du Plessis for 48 minutes of the match and completely spoiled what might have been a spectacle.

The French official puzzled the Boks when he handled their match against Scotland in Nelspruit in June, but they were at least able to snatch a late win.

But yesterday against the All Blacks, the world’s number one team, their resolve was severely dented and their competitiveness compromised.?In the end, the Boks not only lost but conceded a bonus point, which might prove to be crucial when the Rugby Championship concludes in South Africa with matches against Australia and New Zealand on September 28 and October 5.

Poite decided twice to yellow-card Du Plessis for infringements that former All Black scrum half Justin Marshall, on the TV broadcast, described as “rubbish”.

The first yellow card against Du Plessis came when the combative hooker anticipated that the ball might be passed to fly half Dan Carter and charged up on an oblique angle to smash the fly half into the ground.

A scuffle broke out and referee Poite, instead of looking at the big screen as he is now entitled to do, referred the incident to the TMO, before calling over Du Plessis and sending him to the cooler with the words “no arms and high”.

In a situation, uncannily like the infamous Morné du Plessis tackle on Naas Botha at Loftus many years ago, Carter had in fact been “sold” by the pass from scrum half Aaron Smith and TV replays showed that Du Plessis’ tackle was legal.

Although the All Blacks had outthought and outmanoeuvred the Boks to score two tries and take an initial 14-3 lead, Jean de Villiers and his men showed great spirit by electing to kick a penalty to touch before driving Bismarck du Plessis, who was by then back on the field, for a try and a half-time score of 17-10 to the All Blacks.

But soon after the restart came, the “two strikes and you’re out” second yellow card against Du Plessis took him out of play for the rest of the match.

Driving off the side of a maul with the ball under his arm, Du Plessis threw up his other arm as a shield as he made contact with Liam Messam; his elbow hitting the All Black flanker on the collarbone.

Messam went down as if poleaxed and Poite again referred the incident to the TMO (Australia’s George Ayoub) to check for suspected foul play.

Ayoub’s response was “up to the face of the black player – sorry on to the neck, on to the neck”, and, astonishingly, Poite decided that the incident was a yellow-card offence.

The Boks were clearly baffled and demoralised and in less than two minutes, Kieran Read scored his second try under the crossbar and the score grew to 24-10. The referee later issued yellow cards against All Blacks Ma’a Nonu and Kieran Read for dangerous play but by then the depleted Boks were clearly tired.

Poite’s actions unleashed a furious reaction from fans in South Africa, with supporters comparing it to the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal in New Zealand in which Bryce Lawrence confounded the Boks.

But all is not lost for the Springboks in this year’s Rugby Championship in spite of their controversial defeat.

The Boks will have to beat the Wallabies at Newlands on September 28 to set up a finale against the All Blacks at Ellis Park on October 5, provided the All Blacks don’t get a bonus-point victory against Argentina in Mar del Plata in two weeks’ time.


All Blacks:

Tries: Kieran Read (2), Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane

Conversions: Dan Carter (1), Beauden Barrett (2)

Penalties: Barrett (1)


Tries: Bismarck du Plessis, Patrick Lambie

Conversions: Morné Steyn (1)

Penalties: Steyn (1)

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