Saturday evening’s rugby international between The All Blacks and the Springboks should have been a game to remember, and it was for all the wrong reasons. A bruising encounter it was, and both teams threw everything at each other, and the All Blacks were victorious because them made less errors and were the more clinical. Yet the game will be remembered because of the officials and how their decisions unfortunately influenced the encounter.
The IRB have issued a statement post game which states “following an initial review, the IRB confirms that it was incorrect for referee Romain Poite to issue a yellow card to Bismarck du Plessis in the 17th minute of The Rugby Championship match between New Zealand and South Africa. Just as players and coaches make mistakes, the decision was an unfortunate case of human error by the match officials, who, having reviewed the match, fully recognise and accept that they made a mistake in the application of law.”
There is no doubt that this yellow card changed the game. The All Blacks will say that it changed their game as du Plessis’s tackle saw Dan Carter play no further part in the game. He injured himself because of the way he fell when crunched in the tackle; a tackle he did not see coming. It changed the game for the Springboks too as the All Blacks scored a second try while du Plessis was off the field. He then picked up a second yellow card in the second half and was sent from the field leaving the Boks to play with 14 men for 35 minutes.
What is frustrating as a spectator is the game was affected by this one decision. Romain Poite consulted with the TMO video replay, but it appeared the communication between the two was poor. The Frenchman on several occasions during the did not appear to understand what Australian George Ayoub was telling him. Which brings into question having a TMO and a referee speaking different languages which may lead to a communication problem.
It also raises the issue that if the referee does not fully comprehend what has been said or makes such an error shouldn’t the TMO advise him? What exacerbated the situation for most fans was that they could hear the communication between the two, and maybe it is time to review whether fans get to hear all of the communication.
The Springboks unbeaten run came to an end, the All Blacks remained undefeated at Eden Park, but the game will sadly be remembered for the referee as much as the rugby. The one thing this game will do is ensure a titanic game in South Africa, where the Rugby Championship would well be on the line.
It will be essential that the officials for that game have better communication. Some are saying that all four should be from the Southern hemisphere, but that is unlikely to be the case. One small comfort for South African fans will be the comment from the IRB, “All match official performances are thoroughly reviewed and assessed by the IRB and are considered when appointments are made for future test matches.” That may well mean Monsieur Poite is unlikely to be in charge.