Keep Koch, bin Poite

Yes Vincent Koch took a hammering, but Romain Poite’s performance in Durban was far worse and should see him removed from the RWC referees panel says Tank Lanning in his Sport24 column this week.

Tank Lanning

This column is NOT about making excuses for a dreadful Springbok performance in Durban on Saturday. The Boks were arrogantly over confident, made a plethora of unforced errors, were smashed at both the breakdown and the scrum, and deserved to lose the game. Fact.

The other fact, though, is that referee Romain Poite had an absolute howler. That the Boks reacted poorly to Poite’s bad calls, which added to their headless chicken performance, is coach Heyneke Meyer’s problem. That Poite remains part of the Rugby World Cup refereeing panel is World Rugby’s problem. A problem they should sort out by kicking him off it!

Yes referees are human, and yes they make mistakes. But hells bells, not that many! In the first Argentinean try he not only blocked Lood de Jager from making a tackle, but then missed the forward pass and arrogantly chose not to ask the TMO to review it. A few minutes later he blew a Bok lineout up early, apologising to Schalk Burger and De Jager, who found himself in oodles of open space without a defender in sight.

His call of time on while there were still 4 medics on the field which lead to Juan Imhoff’s unprecedented hat trick of tries against the Boks was a dreadful call, missing the obvious knock on before Marcelo Bosch’s drop goal was astonishing, while asking the TMO if Cobus Reinach, who took the tap right in front of Poite a second after he had awarded the penalty, had taken said tap from the correct mark, was just plain pathetic.

And that was outside the plethora of dubious scrum penalties he awarded …

His first went against Marcos Ayerza for collapsing the scrum. Bok tighthead Vincent Koch then got introduced to his own arsehole by Ayerza in the second scrum, and from then on in, the Pumas loosehead could do no wrong. Via penalties against Koch in the next 4 scrums, Poite basically penalised the Bok tighthead off the field. This after Ayerza was the bad guy in scrum one?

No mention of hooker Agustin Creevy, a wily old campaigner, who when binding on his props, pulls up their jerseys so the opposition props have only human skin or a thin under garment to bind on.

Poite also missed Ayerza’s sneaky twist toward Creevy just after the set in that notorious scrum just before half time. A move that caused Koch to lose his bind on Ayerza’s purple nightie, and thus enable the crafty bugger to milk the resultant penalty that saw Koch’s game curtailed.

It was a disgraceful performance from Poite, and it’s no wonder the Bok management were “Seeking clarity” on a few of his calls. That’s basically PC speak for “This oke had a shocker”.

In closing, a quick comment on those scrums. If anything, Jannie du Plessis’ value to the Bok side has been well and truly proven. But even he was also on serious roller skates against Ayerza last year (for proof, CLICK HERE). In fact, I cannot think of a single tighthead who has ever survived 80 minutes against that scrummaging phenomenon without taking at least one beating. So let’s not throw Koch out with the bath water. He is a good tighthead prop who has now paid some serious school fees, and will be better for it.

And on the game in general … Whatever could have gone wrong for the Boks in Durban, did. I cannot see it going that badly for them again. Time for Meyer to make a call though: Old Boys and old “Kick and chase” game plan, OR New Boys and new “Heads up” game plan. Anything in between, and you get what we saw in Durban.


  1. Tank obviously a Koch fan and I will bow to your insight having been active in that department BUT I still have my doubts that he is a player at international level.

    1. Hah. Good to see you last night Dave, albeit briefly. I suppose only time will tell. And time is what it takes for a tighthead to develop. Sharks have TdT at 3 this evening against Schalk Ferreira. Now that could get messy!

  2. Why oh why would you attack the ref?

    Even if he did make a few blunders I dont see you reporting that all the boks should be kicked from the squad who had one bad game?

    This is total south african mentality. Why dont we look at the ref and say yes he made mistakes, sSo does every ref every game, but instead look at the players how they handled the situation and played the way the ref blows???

    1. Not the first time Poite has had a nightmare. As said in piece, not equating refereeing blunders to Bok performance. Am suggesting the rugby world cup would be a much better place without Poite. As it stands he referees the all important Aus vs England game. Do we want that decided by a ref or by the player skills?

  3. Prescient observations in your pre-match analysis, Tank. It really points to the sad state of coaching in South Africa. The basic requirement for any back-line position should not be “run fast and tackle strongly”. Each position on the field should be filled by a player who brings the right skills and attributes – equally, a coach’s match strategy should be informed by the skills and attributes of the players at his disposal. Players should be developed in a particular position, so that they understand what is expected of them in defense and attack positionally, and can focus on the particular skills that are core to their role e.g. kicking for touch, fielding high balls, acceleration into the gap etc.

    A decision to move players into a new position is one that should be planned in advance, with the cooperation of the Super XV coaches. Until we have this level of coordination nationally, we will be unable to consistently compete with the All Blacks, who do.

  4. Hi Tank, I truly think that Vincent Koch was still injured. A chest injury normally takes 4-6 weeks to heal. I think they made the call and gave him anti inflammation and pain killers. Ala Duane Vermeulen 2014 AB game JHB. The points you are making is valid though. Truly hope HM still sees him as his 2nd Tight head in the pecking order.

    1. Thanks Brand. Hope so to. Looks like there will only be 5 props going to the RWC, and with Koch having played loosehead last year, he will get the nod as the 3rd tighthead

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