An Australian rugby writer has criticised Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis after he received two yellow cards in their Test against the All Blacks in Auckland earlier this month.
French referee Romain Poite showed Du Plessis a yellow card in the 16th minute of the Test for a perfectly legal tackle on All Black flyhalf Dan Carter.
He then showed him a second yellow – and a subsequent red card – for leading with an elbow which connected with All Black flank Liam Messam’s throat.
The All Blacks went on to win the game 29-15 – a result which led to heavy criticism against the Frenchman, so much so that the International Rugby Board (IRB) even issued a statement admitting Poite had made a mistake.
However, Spiro Zavos – a rugby writer for the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper – says Du Plessis’s tackle on Dan Carter was made from an offside position and it was right for Poite to punish the Bok hooker.
“A tackle from an offside position is automatically illegal. When a player commits an illegality, which Du Plessis did, and a player is injured or liable to be injured because of the dangerous nature of the tackle, it is virtually automatic a yellow card is handed out,” Zavos wrote in his column.
Zavos also quoted Maurice Heemro, a Cape Town player in the 1960s who was made an honorary Springbok in 2001, as saying: “Bismarck is a bully and, regardless of whether he used his arms or not, he went into that tackle from an offside position, with the intention of injuring him. It speaks of a cynical and a dirty style of play the Springboks have espoused for a long time.”
Zavos also – as mentioned by All Black coach Steve Hansen – wrote that Du Plessis’ second yellow card could easily have been a straight red.
The Boks tackle the Wallabies at Newlands this weekend, with another French referee, Jérôme Garcès, named to handle the match, and Zavos believes the referee faces a tough task in front of a partisan home crowd.
“He faces the dreadful prospect of trying to ensure that the Bismarckian method of ‘blood and iron’ is kept within the laws of the game.
“He will be under enormous pressure not to do this from partisan local supporters. Garcès knows, too, that he might not get much support from the IRB and SANZAR if he insists, as he has in the past, that foul play is appropriately punished.
“The Springboks have the highest number of yellow cards and second-highest number of red cards in the 10 years of the card system. It’s time for them to give away the thugby that diminishes their legacy.”