Jean de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Auckland - South Africa refused to get drawn into any discussion about referee Romain Poite's decisions to give hooker Bismarck du Plessis two yellow cards and reduce them to 14 men for 50 minutes of their 29-15 loss to New Zealand in the Rugby Championship on Saturday.
The bonus-point victory for New Zealand moved them to 18 points and the lead in the Rugby Championship ahead of the Springboks who remained on 14.
Du Plessis was given his first yellow card about 15 minutes into the first half for a tackle that Poite described as late and without his arms on New Zealand flyhalf Daniel Carter.
It forced Carter off the field with a suspected injury to his AC joint in his right shoulder and sparked an all-in melee with both sides involved in wrestling and shoving each other.
The abrasive Sharks hooker, who returned to the field and scored his side's first try in the 31st minute, received a second yellow card, and automatic red, for an elbow to the throat of Liam Messam in the first minute of the second half.
"We don't have any excuses. I thought the better team won on the day. That's why they're world champs," Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer told reporters.
"But you're not going to play 14 men against the best team in the world and take them on. You can't scrum. You can't drive in the lineout. And it effects your defence as well.
"I don't want to use that as an excuse. They played well. We'll take it on the chin and move on."
Meyer's reluctance to get dragged into a debate that is now likely to rage back in South Africa was echoed by his captain Jean de Villiers, who simply said he would not comment on the incidents.
De Villiers felt his side had not executed as well as they could have and had been outplayed by the All Blacks.
The intensity of the match and momentum shift towards South Africa in the final 10 minutes of the first half, however, suggested Du Plessis's dismissal had been a significant factor in the outcome.
Television replays suggested the first yellow card for the tackle on Carter was unjustified and De Villiers indicated he had felt the hooker had made a perfectly legal tackle.
"Bismarck is a physical player. He is a very good tackler and I think he executes his tackles very well," De Villiers said.
"So he was disappointed that he only played 30 minutes of this game. We're all disappointed, we're disappointed with the results and that hurts.
"It is what it is and we have to move on and learn from this because at the end of the day, whatever decisions were made we didn't play well.
"Even though we lost on the scoreboard and had 14 men, we didn't play well, we didn't defend well and that's the concerning thing for me.
"We need to be hard on ourselves if we want to compete with the best. I don't think we will ever be happy with a loss."