British & Irish Lions

Nigel Owens: Cheslin Kolbe 'very, very lucky' not to see red

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Springbok wing Cheslin Kolbe receives a yellow card from New Zealand referee Ben O’Keeffe. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Springbok wing Cheslin Kolbe receives a yellow card from New Zealand referee Ben O’Keeffe. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Retired Test referee Nigel Owens says Springbok winger Cheslin Kolbe was "very, very lucky" not to receive a red card in Saturday's second Test against the British & Irish Lions at Cape Town Stadium.

Kiwi referee Ben O'Keeffe gave Kolbe a yellow card in the 25th minute for taking out Lions scrumhalf Conor Murray in the air.

Replays showed Kolbe running straight into Murray, who was in the air jumping for the ball.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Owens said he would have given Kolbe a red card.

"The only mitigating circumstances here would have been whether Tom Curry and Dan Biggar shield him, and affect Kolbe's line which causes him to do an action which he wouldn't have done if they weren't blocking him," Owens said.

"They don't do this. There's not mitigation here. Biggar and Curry don't affect - he has enough time to change what he's doing. Mitigation is gone.

"Kolbe is very, very lucky. If this had have happened 10, 12, 18 months ago - it would have been a red card. I can understand where the yellow came from, but I could fully understand a red. He's very lucky Murray has saved him here, and that shouldn't be part of the equation. 

"You start at red and work down on the landing and if there are any mitigating circumstances. Kolbe has enough time to change what he is doing. When Murray is in the air, you have to be aware of his actions."

Owens also said the Springboks were rather fortunate to be awarded the second try by centre Lukhanyo Am.

Am had dotted down after collecting a clever kick in behind the Lions defence from scrumhalf Faf de Klerk.

There was however doubt whether Am had control but television match official Marius Jonker said he did not have compelling evidence to overturn the on-field "try" decision.

"I don't think he's in control there. He loses it forward. It's a very close call. O'Keefe's on-field decision is a try and the rest of the officials don't have any evidence to overrule his decision. That's why they stuck with that one but I think South Africa are lucky to get it," Owens said.

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