“What we saw, in the 15th minute, was the finest of test match tackles and what resulted was a sporting miscarriage of justice.”
Chris Rattue – NZ Herald
The Springboks were robbed all right, no doubt about it, and rugby needs to get a few heads together to sort out the mess which enveloped Eden Park. A game – an epic in the making – was wrecked and something needs to be done.
An IRB video conference is in order, but judging by events which destroyed this brutal but often low-grade test match, they’d have far too much trouble operating the equipment.
Too many self-interested coaches and players cry wolf over referees and the genuine travesties get lost in the crowd. The Springboks’ noble response shouldn’t stop rugby from taking action. What we saw, in the 15th minute, was the finest of test match tackles and what resulted was a sporting miscarriage of justice.
Bismarck du Plessis, the best hooker in world rugby, lined up the All Black kingpin Dan Carter and hit him with such force that Carter’s descent to earth was his final one for the night. In picking a great target, du Plessis also picked the wrong one because the legendary first five-eighths probably ranks as a protected species, if only subconsciously. Had du Plessis gone hurtling into Owen Franks with the same force and direction, would the yellow have ensued?
It was a smashing and perfectly legal tackle in all regards, one that could have changed the rhythm of the test in South Africa’s favour. It was also the sort of thing some of us pay good money to see. In response, the French referee Romain Poite sowed the seeds for the destruction of the contest, conspiring with an impotent video official George Ayoub who lurked somewhere in a faulty tower. One couldn’t even be confident that Poite and Aussie Ayoub weren’t hamstrung by a language barrier.
As far as can be made out, Poite decided du Plessis hit Carter high and without using his arms, so only asked Ayoub to judge the resulting melee of push and shove. The result, a yellow card, had disastrous con-sequences immediately and later when du Plessis tempted fate with his elbow and was shown a second yellow and the mandatory red.
The game was effectively over as a scrap at that point, early in the second half. The Springbok plans around loose forward power plays and scrum dominance were shattered. The best player on the ground was sidelined. Boos rang around Eden Park, aimed at du Plessis, but they could have targeted Poite and a system which failed to ensure video scrutiny. They certainly would if a precious All Black had been similarly dismissed.
One of the primary aims for officials must be to keep all the players on the field. They need to be doubly sure any time a card is flashed. From the moment of the first yellow card, the game changed and its emotional effect on du Plessis may have led to his second offence.
Having looked at many replays, I can’t see why Kieran Read was yellow carded for dangerous lineout interference either. A simple directive would ensure all potential yellow or red card incidents are video reviewed so justice can be seen to be done. The IRB could also consider the league’s “on report” method.
While they are at it, review the scrum mess. There were (by my count) 14 scrums on Saturday night, and seven resulted in penalties. An enormous amount of time was lost on resets etc.
The scrums would be better if the ball was fed under the hooker’s feet, allowing a level field for a more stable shoving contest. The scrum battle – a potential highlight of this test – was an atmosphere-reducing disaster.