I normally blog about football and my team Liverpool which I love very dearly, this time however I decided to blog about another sport that I am very fond of, rugby. For many it was the 1995 Rugby World Cup that got people into the sport but for me it was the 1992 Currie Cup final, which was contested between Transvaal and Natal at Ellis Park, the Banana Boys (Natal), as they were known back then scraped the nail biter game 14-13 to lift the trophy. Ever since then my fascination with the sport grew.
Fastforward to present day, the Rugby Championship is probably the biggest competition apart from the World Cup, fair enough the 6 Nations does deserve some credit but when you have 3 out of the top 5 teams playing in one competition, its very difficult to argue otherwise. Many including myself never knew what to expect from this competition from the Springboks, the incoming tour was a good one but it didnt give us a clear indication on what we could expect from Heyneke and the boys. The first two fixtures against Argentina saw two very different performances from the Boks so when they eventually toured down under, the game against Australia was crucial. We ended up smashing them securing a bonus point win and thus setting up the mother of all show downs at Eden Park against New Zealand.
Now I know Springboks have a history with bad referee's and to be totally honest I wasn't that phased with the IRB selection of Romain Poite, yes Nothern Hemisphere game play differs slightly from Southern but you'd think that he would be able to conduct play in a manner fit for such a big game. He almost had me convinced after the first major call in the game when Kieren Read went over to score the first try of the game, Poite was positioned well to see the grounding but but requested the TMO to check if there was any incidednts leading up to the try being scored. The move itself from the All Blacks was really slick and executed almost to perfection and really there was no problem with it.
Just when I thought my assumptions that Poite could handle this game were true, he goes and proves me wrong. No denying that the major turning point in the game was the the first yellow card shown to Bismark. It was a crunching tackle on Dan Carter which saw him land awkwardly and damage his shoulder, subsequently he had to be replaced. Now Mr Poite chose to stop play and ask for the TMO to have a look, replays were shown on the big screen for the whole stadium to see, after a chat to the TMO Romain took it on himself to declare that Bismark did not use his hands in the tackle and hit the player high and then brandished the yellow card.
The stupidness of this decision sent mine and every other South Africans blood pressure up. Bismark and Jean de Villiers both bemused had to accept the ref's punishment. The question I want to raise is, why call for the TMO but not ask him something you were not clear about? Secondly, I'm sure the refs arent barred from watching replays on the big screen. They can over rule the TMO so surely if they see the replay on the big screen, they can change their mind about what they initially thought? This does nothing more than shine a bad light onto the IRB and their referee selection policy.
Skip to the second half which saw Bismark take the field all for 6 minutes, he took delivery of the ball and ran into Liam Messam, going into the tackle with his forearm raised to protect the ball and try to block off the player as one does. Now your hand wont really stay where it was during a collision so it did slip up and catch the Messam in the throat. Romain once again summoned for help, this time from one of his touch judges, the claim was that du Plessis went in with his elbow but replays clearly show the forearm, secondly he went in at the right height but during contact the arm did move to the throat area. Nothing much was needed for Romain so a second yellow it was for Bismark.
It was a massive call as we don't see many red cards being dished out in rugby and when you have a big game like this on hand, you don't want to destroy the game by giving another team an advantage. Like John Mitchell said after the game, you have people paying premium for these matches expecting an excellent quality game, yet you get an inexperienced ref making howlers left, right and centre! Fair enough majority of the crowd that day would have liked to see NZ having a man advantage over the Boks but then again they boo'd a lot which proved they're idiots. No one was left more furious than Nick Mallet, the guy was waiting to explode and it was probably a good thing that Supersport made him speak last because I'm sure he had a few choice words like many did at the time for Mr Poite.
After the uproar, the IRB overturned the first yellow card shown to Bismark thus cancelled the red card and the ban. Romain apologised and said it was a mistake. No that wasn't a mistake, a mistake is when you put you wipers on instead of your indicators, a mistake is forgetting to switch close the tap! Can "mistakes" really be tolerated in this form of the game? This isn't Craven week. There is a lot at stake and I feel if the players are professional enough to do their job than so should the referee's. I said that many times with football as well, sure there is human error but bottom line, professionals can't use that as an excuse when make such high profile blunders.
The Springboks return home to start their final leg of the tour which includes games against Australia and New Zealand, they still can clinch the title but it wont be an easy task, lets hope we getting better officials for those game in hand!