French ref a concern for Boks

Romain Poite (Getty Images)
Romain Poite (Getty Images)

Cape Town - Richie McCaw may be out of Saturday’s Rugby Championship Test between the Springboks and All Blacks, but there is a concern about another breakdown influencer during the game.

According to the website, Frenchman Romain Poite - who refereed the Boks’ win over Scotland in Nelspruit in June, has been appointed to handle the match.

Ireland's George Clancy was originally scheduled to be the man in the middle, but when Alain Rolland withdrew due to injury before the Brisbane Test last Saturday, Clancy stepped into the role and fulfilled his duties, with Welshman Nigel Owens flying in to be touch judge in the Boks 38-12 demolition of Australia.

The IRB decided on Poite as he was the next available referee and is highly regarded by the reffing selectors as he was also given one of the Test matches between the British and Irish Lions and Australia this year.

But it is the way that Poite reffed the breakdown against Scotland that has the Boks worried. Adaptability is the key in all respects when it comes to the whistleblowers, but it took the Boks almost an hour to adapt and ensure they got on top of Scotland in that game.

If the Boks take anywhere near that long this time around they will be in big trouble. Not only are the All Blacks the masters of the dark arts when it comes to the breakdown, but they are very effective as well.

What Scotland did in Nelspruit was take out the defender behind the ruck, opening up the gap for their halfbacks to attack. It was a ploy that should have been penalised severely but Poite let it go, confounding the Bok problems on the day.

The All Blacks are very experienced when it comes to taking up space beyond the ruck, and removing defending players, so the Boks will have to once again ensure they face the threat and put extra effort into protecting their ball if Poite is in the same mood this weekend.

But while the Boks will ultimately remind Poite of Nelspruit and hope he will make the breakdown a fair contest, they have a pretty solid argument for doing so.

Looking at the stats of the Brisbane win the Boks made 17 turnovers in the game, a massive 14 of which were at the breakdown. Two of those turnovers resulted in tries for Jean de Villiers and Willie le Roux.

More impressive from the stats was the defence, which saw Australia only make two line breaks in the game. The Bok tackle count was 115 and they tackled at a massive 93% success rate.

If they can replicate these statistics this weekend they may not have to worry about Poite, although the wish would be that like any referee, he be consistent, allow a contest and allow teams to get quick ball to play with.

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