The pain of the one-point defeat (29-28) in the World Cup quarter-finals against South Africa still saddens the Blues and their supporters. For many, there is a reason that does not pass: a refereeing that was allegedly in favor of the French XV for New Zealander Ben O’Keeffe. It was mentioned by the players themselves after the match, including the first, captain Antoine Dupont, who referred to the “substandard” refereeing. What is it exactly?
Let’s first get the two points out of the way that generated a lot of talk Sunday evening. The Anti-Transformation of Thomas Ramos by Cheslin Colby, first and foremost. The South African winger’s departure in front of the goal line was interesting but not obvious, and the French did not criticize it publicly. Ibn Etzbeth’s attempt to object then. An attempt to be cleared by a volunteer striker is a penalty attempt and a yellow card. Ben O’Keefe did not whistle, believing that the South African second line was pushing the ball into his camp. When asked, a professional French referee defended these two decisions: “It’s borderline, nothing, but I would have made the same choices.”
Blues staff were satisfied with the selection of Ben O’Keefe
Then comes the other criticism, more forceful and more general, leveled by Antoine Dupont: the too-lenient refereeing towards South Africa, which slowed down the balls in sets. Let’s start with a reminder. In rugby, refereeing is a key element of the game, with all teams having rules specialists on their staff. For France, it is former whistler Jérôme Garces. As the rules and their interpretations evolve frequently, we must stay informed and consult with World Rugby. Meetings are held regularly before each match between representatives of the referees and the teams. In this match too. So the Blues were warned and prepared.
But men with a whistle also always enjoy a certain amount of freedom, a margin for interpretation. Hence the importance of knowing who will rule and what his “style” is. It is no less important than knowing which player to play in your team… “The referee’s exit caused us a lot of damage,” estimates, for example, Warren Gatland, the Welsh coach who lost on Saturday to Argentina (17-29) in the World Cup. The quarter-finals, as if talking about the loss of one of its players, after South African Jaco Bieber was injured at the whistle of this match. A way of saying that Wales prepared for a certain style of play with Bieber, and that the refereeing changed with his replacement, Carl Dixon.
For the France-South Africa quarter-finals, Ben O’Keefe’s selection was closely analyzed by the Blues staff. The New Zealand referee punished the French team 15 times against Uruguay on September 14. He appeared very cautious about group moves, an impression that was confirmed by watching the Ireland-South Africa match during the group stage, which the New Zealander officiated. After the warning, the Blues seemed fairly satisfied with the choice.
Especially since the French crew had until then been watching in amazement the refereeing of these games for the Springboks, even before they knew they would face them. Specifically, the behavior of the South African striker slowing down the game by not moving away from the group quickly enough, or even by getting up in the opposing camp to initiate counter-punching.
Australian Angus Gardner’s leniency towards the Springboks during the match between South Africa and Scotland, on September 10 in Marseille, initially worried the technical staff, but then the referee reassured him… Ben O’Keefe during Africa from Southern Ireland. Whistle New Zealand penalized South Africa four times for similar actions during the first period alone.
“For us, this is good news,” a source close to employees reacted at the beginning of last week, upon learning of his appointment. This may have reinforced the lack of understanding in light of what happened on Sunday evening and, according to the Frenchman, the New Zealander’s excessive leniency towards the Springboks. Possible change in attitudes and refereeing habits between O’Keefe, but not enough to cause a foul.
“Cohesive arbitration does not favor one team over the other.”
“Mr O’Keefe’s refereeing was consistent and did not favor one team over another,” believes our advisor Pierre Berbizier. We finished with 12 penalties, which is a very low total in a game of this intensity, 6 on each side, so that’s fair. You have to know how to accept this type of refereeing, as it contributed to a great rugby match. Perhaps South Africans, more accustomed to this, adapted better to his interpretation of the rules of the game on the ground, a sector in which they gradually took over. »
“We’re talking about a southern hemisphere referee of his quality, backing up former international Richard Dorth. He allows you to play in the rocks to encourage the game. And the strange thing is that when he dominates you, as was the case for South Africa, it gives them time to get going. The best example is “It was Richie McCaw.” The former New Zealand third-rower was a master of the art of “spoiling” opposite balls, always flirting with the base… but never going beyond it. Like South Africa on Sunday.
Despite Antoine Dupont challenging the referee and showing him the attackers hanging around in the groups, Ben O’Keeffe did not flinch. It was annoying, but he didn’t have to. “For me, the only mistake in the match was Ketchoff getting the yellow cardThe South African prop hit a French pass while in trouble, only receiving a knockdown), thinks Richard Dorth. For the rest, we are talking about a volunteer striker from Etzbeth and he is not one. Also imagine the final action we would have complained about if we had reversed the roles. He did not whistle against Woke, who is in the South African camp, during the landing attempt. » Controversy addressed by South African coach Jacques Nienaber, very satisfied with the refereeing… with victory in the end.
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