Auckland - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer may have refused to criticise Romain Poite for red-carding hard-man Bismarck du Plessis in their crunch Test against the All Blacks, but New Zealand media were less sympathetic to the French referee on Sunday.
New Zealand comprehensively won the top-of-the-table Rugby Championship clash 29-15 after the South African front rower was automatically red-carded early in the second half for a second yellow-card offence.
The Springboks refused to debate the issue after the game Saturday with Meyer saying "the referee is always right", but arch-rivals New Zealand were quick to defend du Plessis over the initial yellow card.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen felt the feisty hooker was "unlucky" to be sin-binned for a big hit on Dan Carter -- which has sidelined the ace flyhalf for the remainder of the championship with a shoulder injury -- and the New Zealand media backed him up.
Sunday Star-Times writer Mark Hinton described Poite's decision to dismiss du Plessis as "farcical" and said it tilted the match in the All Blacks' favour.
"The hooker's shoulder-charge on Carter looked dodgy, but replays showed the hit was legit and that referee Romain Poite had over-reacted big time," Hinton wrote.
David Long, writing for Fairfax Media, said the first yellow card "was an extremely harsh call on the Sharks No 2, as his tackle on Dan Carter was perfectly timed and legal".
Former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick, in his Herald on Sunday column, said he also felt the tackle on Carter was legitimate.
He questioned why "a referee can have that much influence on a game with so much (video) technology available" to review the incident.
Herald on Sunday writer Gregor Paul said Carter was "fair game" and du Plessis had been onside, but he felt that the South African had deserved a red card for the second offence alone, when he rammed his elbow into the throat of Liam Messam.
"The first offence was not a yellow, although what Bismarck du Plessis did with his head looked bad. But the second offence was a straight red. Seriously bad."
Hansen also felt there was an argument for a red card for the hit on Messam, when asked by the South African media if he felt the Springboks were "robbed".
"Let's not go too far," he said. "I don't think it's legal to go around putting your elbow on someone's throat.
"The second one may well have been a red one, without it being a yellow, if you want to have a balanced look at it."
Even if the Springboks had played the full match with 15 men the consensus of the New Zealand press was that they were still no match for the All Blacks.
It was a view shared by Springboks captain Jean de Villiers.
"This is a quality New Zealand side.
"They were the better team on the day.
"They played better than us and we need to take a hard look at the way we perform because that certainly wasn't a performance that's good enough," he said.
"We'll take this one on the chin and realise we're still quite a way from competing with the best."