World Rugby supervisors have noted, according to information from Midi Olympique, five major refereeing errors during the quarter-final between the XV of France and South Africa, lost by one point by the Blues (28- 29). The decisions of Ben O’Keeffe, the evening referee, were questioned by some French players after the match (Antoine Dupont, Jonathan Danty) but especially dissected by French supporters on social networks. And the New Zealand referee made five errors: three in favor of the Springboks, but also two in favor of the French XV. Would the result of the match have been different without these errors?
Two forgotten yellow cards
First, the referee of the match was confirmed by World Rugby in his decision not to voluntarily whistle forward on Eben Etzebeth’s saving tap at the start of the match (6th). On the other hand, the first error is in favor of the French: Damian Penaud should have been sanctioned for an uncontrolled tackle on Eben Etzebeth precisely, who would have deserved a penalty or even a yellow card (9th). At that point, the score was 7-7 and France then had a chance to score, but Thomas Ramos did not convert it. No direct advantage for the Blues, but they would surely have suffered much more at 14 against 15, while they camped in the Springbok camp for the next five minutes.
The following error is a South African fault, and it was indeed pointed out by the French: the dangerous clearing of Pieter-Steph Du Toit on Jonathan Danty, who himself had complained about it after the match, would have deserved a yellow card for contact to the head (17th). The French were penalized for this action, when they should have been rewarded. Above all, the fault was in the Springboks’ 22 meters in front of the posts, and Thomas Ramos would have easily scored three additional points. Would the Blues also have avoided the try conceded two minutes later following the penalty? Nothing says it since the Springboks would still have benefited from a referral to the French camp, but the score would then have been 10-7 instead of 7-12.
Kolbe left too early, and the last penalty was invalid
The big debate of the match has been settled: for World Rugby, Cheslin Kolbe started well ahead of the transformation of Thomas Ramos (22nd). Yes, except that there is no guarantee that the French rear would have succeeded, even less given the corner position and under the pressure of Kolbe, who, if he had left in time, would still have hampered the Frenchman.
The last error in favor of South Africa came in the 68th minute, and it had very serious consequences: Kwagga Smith’s scratch on Cameron Woki was illegal, since he leaned on the ground with his hands before to take the ball. The score was then 25-26 for the Springboks, and they benefited from the penalty which won them the match, bringing their score to 29 points. However, it is the French who should have benefited from this penalty against the posts on the halfway line. We can reasonably think that, like Handré Pollard, the French striker Thomas Ramos would have succeeded. The score would then have been 28-26, not 25-29. But the Boks would have benefited from the return to the French camp.
Finally, the referee’s last error favored the Blues. In the 78th minute, when the score was already 28-29, Cameron Woki escaped a penalty against him for offside. A mistake which would not have changed the outcome of the match, since the South Africans were already leading and won the match by the same score.
Ultimately, nothing says whether the Blues would have won this match without these refereeing errors: the yellow cards would have changed the appearance of the match, and the two teams would have played differently if the Blues had led by the score and not the other way around. . It is, however, indisputable that the errors which benefited the South Africans seem to have a greater impact on the outcome of the match than those in favor of the French. But the match is played, the score is sealed, and all the matches could be dissected like this. Refereeing errors are part of sport. This match must still lead World Rugby to question the interpretation of certain rules and the use of video, to limit controversies of this magnitude in the future.