Ophthalmology, the connection to France… Who is Ben O’Keefe, the hotly contested referee in the France-South Africa match?

Ophthalmology, the connection to France… Who is Ben O’Keefe, the hotly contested referee in the France-South Africa match?

New Zealand referee Ben O’Keefe, who has been cited for disputed decisions, has been the focus of all discussions since the French XV was eliminated by South Africa in the World Cup quarter-finals (28-29). An experienced referee, an ophthalmologist in civilian life, however, has a close connection with France.

His name has been on everyone’s lips ever since the terrible disappointment of the 15th in France. Refereeing the Blues’ quarter-final match against South Africa, which ended in a very disappointing elimination at the Stade de France (28-29), New Zealander Ben O’Keefe was chosen for several disputed decisions.

>> All information and reactions after France and South Africa (28-29)

Antoine Dupont said in a press conference immediately after the match: “I do not want to feel bitter and complain about the refereeing because he lost the match, but I am not sure that the refereeing was up to the challenge.” “I can’t wait to see the pictures again which, I think, will give me more frustration. I think there are things that are clear and obvious, which are easy to describe and not to ignore. “They weren’t,” continued the Blues captain, who thus summed up the bitter thoughts of almost an entire country. .

However, Ben O’Keefe is no newcomer to the world of international arbitration. At 34 years old, the New Zealander is preparing to compete in his second World Cup in a row. In 2019, he officiated at the World Cup finals held in Japan. He was notably an assistant alongside Frenchman Jérôme Garces during the final match between England and South Africa, a match which ended… in a victory for the Springboks.

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Before the quarter, his appointment was welcomed by the Blues staff

During the 2023 World Cup, he had already captained the French national team during the group match against Uruguay. During this encounter, where France faced thousands of difficulties in getting rid of the eye-catching Tyros (27-12), the Blues were punished 15 times. As he pointed out Parisian Ahead of the quarter-final match against South Africa, the New Zealander was one of the referees “highly appreciated by the French staff”. The management of the French XV would have particularly praised the “quality and clarity of the refereeing in areas of chaos”… a sector of play whose decisions have been the subject of great debate since Sunday evening. During this match against Uruguay, Roman Taofifenoa also escaped a red card after a dangerous challenge on half-half Santiago Arata.

Before the selective quarter-final against the Springboks, Ben O’Keefe had managed the French XV on 10 occasions to a perfectly balanced record: five wins and five defeats, including a very significant success against England during the last Six Nations (53-10) or a brief defeat. On Scottish soil during the preparation for this World Cup (25-21).

Experience in the Top 14 and crossing to France to study

So much for the resume and purely statistical evaluation. But let’s get to the question a certain number of Blues fans are asking themselves this Monday: Does Ben O’Keefe have a little grudge against France? It is logical that the impartiality and professionalism of the referees chosen for the current World Cup would be enough to put this possibility aside. But the more skeptical may be more convinced of its special connection to France.

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Ben O’Keefe during the World Cup quarter-final match between France and South Africa 10/15/2023 – Icon

Ben O’Keefe is accustomed to managing Super Rugby (a tournament between the Australian and New Zealand provinces), and actually managed a top 14 side last season as part of international exchanges between the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere led by the International Rugby League. . “It’s a challenge, the top 14 is a great competition,” he said privately on the French championship’s social networks after officiating a match between Racing 92 and La Rochelle last January.

In this speech, his mastery of Molière’s language is particularly evident. And for good reason: he lived for six months in France while studying and speaks fluent French.

Ophthalmologist in civilian life

As well as rugby, the man, who is also the brother of New Zealand international footballer Michael O’Keefe, is an ophthalmologist. He works for a company that aims to create medical technology to prevent visual blindness. A professional career has inevitably sparked a lot of ridicule since Sunday evening, with some netizens having fun drawing a link between his job as an ophthalmologist and his supposed refereeing errors on the pitch at the Stade de France.

Recently, Ben O´Keeffe was the target of online harassment following his performance in the Super Rugby final, which pitted two New Zealand teams against each other. Chiefs fans (the Hamilton-based team) felt they favored the Christchurch-based Crusaders, who won 25-20. He said: “Unfortunately, as a referee at the highest level, I have to accept and get used to the harsh criticism that fans are accustomed to after matches.” On his Instagram account. On Monday afternoon, the day after his much-discussed performance, he hadn’t spoken (yet?).

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