Allain Rolland, controversial at the best of times, seemed not to realise the impact the Cardiff pitch was having on the front rows, an his petulance robbed us of a great Test match.
We was robbed! OK, not quite as badly as on the 14th of September when referee Romain Poite denied the world a classic Test match between the Boks and All Blacks by wrongfully sending Bismarck du Plessis from the Auckland pitch … But given the state of the field at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff and the petulant refereeing from Irish referee Allain Rolland, I think we were robbed of what could have been a great Test.
And the IRB are responsible for both, and need to take action.
The pitch in Paris for the France vs All Black game was not great either, but it was 100 times better than the grass free muddy skating rink that was delivered in Cardiff. It cut up very easily, meaning that not even the long studs on the forward’s boots could gain any traction, rendering the game robbed of any meaningful scrumming. Rolland, controversial at the best of times – hence him being booed by the crowd at the beginning of the game – seemed not to realise the impact the pitch was having on the front rows, eventually losing his patience, yellow carding both Gethin Jenkins and brand new replacement Coenie Oosthuizen, which resulted in one of the scourges of the game – uncontested scrums!
Sure he had warned both Jenkins and Frans Malherbe in the previous scrum, but how can that warning possibly carry over to a replacement prop trying to get to grips with a pitch not for Test match rugby in his first act of the game? And while he had warned both props in the previous scrum, he had in fact penalised Wales, making the Oosthuizen yellow card even more ridiculous. It was petulant and childish refereeing that made a farce of the game.
The Millennium Stadium is one of THE great Test rugby venues. Hearing the crowd sing the Welsh anthem there is something that every single rugby fan round the world should experience. It is raised hair on the back of the neck, tears to the eyes stuff that creates memories that last for a life time. BUT, and it is a big BUT, that pitch needs to be sorted out before they host another international match. It is just not up to standard …
But it was fantastic to see the Boks not let these external factors (which included losing flyhalf Morne Steyn to injury, and thus a pretty big rejig of the backline) get to them. They might not have played their most fluent rugby, but it was another physically dominant victory based on a suffocating blanket defence and an unerring knack of doing the basics well. I am not sure Wales ever really recovered from Bismarck du Plessis steam rolling Liam Williams off the pitch!
Wales contributed hugely to the game though. They certainly did not roll over and play dead. On a pitch that enabled competitive scrumming, and with a ref that was consistent at both the scrum and at the breakdown, it could have been a truly great Test match. But one that I think the Boks would always have won
So who will coach Heyneke Meyer unleash on the Scots? Word is that almost the entire squad is going to be given a run, meaning that we could see plenty changes when the team is announced on Thursday. It would be a little silly just to unleash all the so called second stringers, though. The key to building squad depth is integrating the young up and comers into the side slowly, and while playing with enough experienced players to build confidence …
This column first appeared on the www.eNCA.com website