How referee Romain Poite could not use the TMO for such a crucial decision, in such a crucial match, is beyond inept, it is a disgrace, and the IRB need to show some teeth and act on it.
Like a hot air balloon that had been pierced by a javelin … or being let loose at an all you can eat steak and chop buffet with your lips stitched together … it was just such a disappointing and frustrating way for the biggest Springbok Test of the year to end.
Sure, they have been the top two sides in world rugby for a while now, but one got the feeling that the Boks could for the first time in a long time, actually match the All Blacks, even on the hallowed fortress that is Eden Park.
And while the All Blacks were deserved leaders at half time, they had lost both potent playmakers Dan Carter and Israel Dagg to injury, the Bok scrum was looking pretty decent, and having eventually decided to keep the ball in hand rather than kick it away, the Boks were looking so much better in winning the attacking collisions rather than the defensive ones they had had to endure for a lot of the half.
And then enter stage left, the same man who allowed Alasdair Strokosch free reign at the breakdown in the Bok’s narrow win over Scotland in June, referee Romain Poite, who through error and ineptitude, completely ruined the game as a contest.
The IRB have confirmed that it was incorrect for Poite to issue the first yellow card to Bismarck du Plessis (for an alleged high tackle with no use of the arms on Dan Carter), describing the decision as “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.”
But the SA Referees website takes it a step further saying “The reasons the referee gave for sending Du Plessis to the sin bin were wrong. It was a refereeing mistake. Mistakes happen but in this case it was so unnecessary. The referee had time to consult his assistants and the TMO and to look at the evidence on the big screen. He, an experienced Test referee, did none of those things but relied on his single impression in real time – and he was wrong.”
And therein lies the rub. The IRB simply have to get tougher inept reffing performances. For too long, match officials have been wrapped in cotton wool, not allowed to be criticised by coaches or players, and seemingly above any sort of sanction, barring the odd slap on the wrist.
This while their decisions have direct consequences on both coach and payer livelihoods.
Rugby is not only governed by a very complex set of laws, it is also a set of laws that is perhaps the most open to interpretation out of any sport on earth. The fact that one man’s interpretation of the laws can have such a direct bearing on a match result is probably the biggest problem facing the sport today (and we all know it is facing a few!)
So when tools like the TMO are brought in, and given extended powers so as to try and reduce said power of interpretation, they need to be used. How Poite could not use the TMO in such a crucial decision, in such a crucial match, is beyond inept. It is a disgrace.
The above first appeared on eNCA.com as a column