International Rugby, Opinions

Forget the ref, Boks were beaten by better team

Mark Keohane, in Independent Media’s publications, writes that any Springbok bashing would be a misrepresentation because Saturday’s 23-13 defeat against the All Blacks was a fantastic game of rugby. However, Bok coach Rassie Erasmus would be the first to acknowledge that his All Black counterpart Steve Hansen got the drop on him in selection and game strategy.

The All Blacks used a strong kicking game to negate the potency of the Boks’ rush defence and the selection of two specialist opensiders in Adri Savea and Sam Cane worked a treat for the defending champions in the 40 minutes before Cane left the field with concussion.

The All Blacks’ two tries showcased the wonderful skills of so many of their players, but it was their discipline in contact, their shape defensively and a refusal to commit numbers to the breakdown that troubled the Boks.

Mark Keohane’s Independent Media and IOL Sport articles

Most All Black wins are memorable because of the tries they score, but Saturday’s victory was because of their defence and a game plan that relied more on kicking than it did running.

They kicked the ball 35 times and on 19 occasions won back the kicked ball. Scrumhalf Aaron Smith produced a masterful display of kicking from the base which was reminiscent of Fourie du Preez’s form at the 2007 World Cup in France.

The All Blacks made 82% of their tackles and that figure would have been higher had Bok wing Cheslin Kolbe not bewitched them. Kolbe beat 11 defenders in making 124 metres. He also made three linebreaks and his attacking statistics were the best in the match.

The All Blacks were smart in how they played and there could be no counter to the discipline of the men in black.

The Boks’ lineout is arguably the best in the world and the All Blacks clearly tried to limit kicking the ball into touch. South Africa’s lineout maul has been a big attacking weapon, but it was hardly a factor because the All Blacks conceded only four penalties.

French referee Jerome Garces penalised the Boks nine times and he missed a hell of a lot in respect to both teams, but there was no bias towards the All Blacks. SA were lucky to escape a yellow card early on for a cynical professional foul.

Damian de Allende of South Africa during the Rugby World Cup Pool B match between New Zealand and South African at the International Stadium Yokohama. Photo: Steve Haag Sports / Hollywoodbets
Damian de Allende of South Africa during the Rugby World Cup Pool B match between New Zealand and South African at the International Stadium Yokohama. Photo: Steve Haag Sports / Hollywoodbets

The All Blacks won this match more than the Boks lost it and most teams at this World Cup would have crumbled under the initial wave of green-and-gold attack.

The Boks collectively didn’t play badly and they were outstanding in getting within four points with 15 minutes to go after the All Blacks had led 17-3 at halftime.

Faf de Klerk didn’t play well and while Erasmus has been vocal in affirming De Klerk is his preferred starting No 9, there is a compelling case for Herschel Jantjies’ promotion.

SA’s best wasn’t good enough to beat New Zealand’s best on Saturday but with a few tweaks on attack, greater adaptation to referee interpretation at the scrum and breakdown, the Boks’ best will be good enough to beat Ireland in a probable quarter-final.


Mark keohane is part of the Independent Media and IOL Rugby World Cup team of writers

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3 thoughts on “Forget the ref, Boks were beaten by better team

  1. grant steenkamp says:

    a headline to forget the ref, boks were beaten by a better team really doesn’t make any sense, how can you rate a teams performance or skill level when it has become blatantly obvious with the recent videos posts of this game that Jerome Garces was unable or unwilling to penalize the all blacks on numerous occasions.

    If you are allowed to transgress the rules of rugby, as the all blacks often do then of course you will be the better team.

    more than other mainline sport the referees in rugby can influence the outcome of a game and much greater scrutiny should be applied to their performance, if rugby is to progress as a sport then serious consideration needs to be made to make the referees less influential in the game, which ever way this is done whether it be by replays of video footage, a second ref etc, etc a way needs to be found to stop the incompetency, biased/personal application of the rules, blatant favouritism, call it what you want, that is so often a cause for discontentment among fans.

    it is obvious that the all blacks play to the ref rather than the rules and will transgress the rules when allowed, its has become part of their rugby culture, from the days of Sean Fitzpatrick and more recently Richie Macaw it has become such an integral part of their game plan that when (on the odd occasion) referees do call them on it (recent rugby championship game against Australia) it causes major disruption to their game plan. Many consider this type of approach acceptable, I suppose its a matter of opinion but if the IRB continue to allow the all blacks to be rewarded with what many consider cynical (and to be fair very clinical) flaunting of the rules of rugby what are we teaching young rugby players starting out in the game?

    Do we now make flaunting the rules an essential part of the game, do we now scrutinise a referee’s performance before a game and play to his version of the rules.

    To allow the outcome of a game to be decided by the team that is either favoured by the ref or the team that can best adapt to the refs own understanding of the rules is short sighted, the game of rugby has changed and as with other sports the policing of the rules need to change too.

    1. james mcallister says:

      Were there any ref decisions that favoured the Boks that went unpunished , are we to believe that the Boks did not commit any indescretions or as usual is the sole focus on the AB’s because they won. I saw and the commentators commented on a head high tackle by PSDT on Ardie Savea that went uncalled by the ref. Or is that indiscretion OK to be overlooked by SA fans.

  2. John and Ruth Alexander says:

    I think that is quite a naive view driven by frustration. I would have thought adapting to a referee’s interpretations of the rules in a sport where everyone knows the refs do have (and are allowed to have) interpretations would be a given of a teams preparation.
    The fact that your team is not very good at this is where perhaps you should direct your frustration. If not the referees interpretation of the rules then whose do we use. Yours?

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