Johannesburg - The Springboks have no problems with the appointment of the man who may have cost them the chance of winning last year’s Rugby Championship for Saturday’s Test against Wales in Durban.
According to the supersport.com website, French referee Romain Poite was almost as big a talking point at one stage of 2013 as New Zealand match official Bryce Lawrence was towards the end of 2011.
Poite’s decision to first yellow card Bismarck du Plessis during the opening half for a dangerous tackle on All Black flyhalf Dan Carter was followed by a red when Du Plessis was found guilty of another offence at the start of the second.
The 10 minutes Du Plessis was off the field in the first half was when the momentum shifted in the match played on the New Zealand leg of the Boks’ tour, and when he was sent off later they had no price.
Even Kiwi commentators agreed afterwards that the refereeing had ruined what was supposed to be the biggest game played in New Zealand since the 2011 World Cup.
Because it effectively left the Boks needing to score a bonus point win and dragged them away from their normal approach, it also detracted from what was to become the deciding game in the competition at Ellis Park later in the season.
The IRB then climbed in by agreeing with the Springbok complaints and taking the unprecedented step of publicly censuring Poite, who it was felt wouldn’t find himself refereeing at international level again for a while.
However, the IRB were quite forgiving in this instance, and according to Bok defence coach John McFarland, it has been accepted by the Boks that Poite has redeemed himself and bounced back from last year’s aberration by becoming a good referee.
“We have no problem with Poite blowing the game on Saturday, in fact we welcome it as he has become one of the best referees,” said McFarland.
“We’ve had him again since New Zealand last year, and I think that the game that he refereed in the recent Six Nations between England and Wales was recognised as the showpiece of that tournament. So there shouldn’t be any problems.”
Wales are also quite happy to have Poite take control of the Kings Park game after their experience with him during the Six Nations.
“He refereed us against England and since that game the channels of communication and discussions have been positive,” said Robin McBryde, the Wales forwards coach.
One area both teams will be chatting to Poite about before the game is the scrumming. The Springboks struggled in the scrums when they had their experience of a northern hemisphere referee in the form of Irishman George Clancy when they played a World XV at Newlands last weekend, and McBryde has agreed that when it comes to scrumming, there is a difference between the northern and southern approach.
“We know the scrum is always going to be a competitive area, but you don’t want to see re-set after re-set, so we all have to work together to ensure this doesn’t happen,” he said, before adding that the scrum was an area where the Welsh would be hoping to get an advantage at the weekend.