Cape Town - Former England and British and Irish Lions prop Matt Stevens says Springbok fans shouldn’t fret over French referee Romain Poite being appointed to referee their team’s Rugby Championship opener.
Poite made headlines last weekend when he controversially changed his mind over a penalty he awarded the All Blacks late in their drawn Test against the Lions in Auckland.
Poite will referee the Boks’ Test against Argentina in Port Elizabeth on August 19.
South African fans will also remember the Frenchman for controversially sending off hooker Bismarck du Plessis against the All Blacks in 2013.
Du Plessis coped two yellow cards - and a subsequent red card - for, firstly, a tackle on All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter and then an elbow-charge against flank Liam Messam during their 2013 Rugby Championship clash in Auckland.
The All Blacks went on to win the game 29-15 - a result which led to heavy criticism against the Frenchman, so much so that the International Rugby Board (IRB) as they were known at the time issued a statement admitting Poite had erred.
But Poite has refereed South African Tests since then and according to Stevens, there’s no need for South Africans to be concerned.
In an exclusive interview with Sport24, Stevens said: “I don’t believe they should be (concerned). While Poite isn’t one of South African rugby supporters’ favourite referees, in general, I felt he officiated the third and final Test in Auckland very well. In terms of the way the final decision was dealt with, I thought Poite did a very good job. He was considered and made the decision in conjunction with the TMO and not on his own. He pored over all the footage he could get because he knew that is was a pivotal point in the match.
“Rugby is a technical game in many senses and, owing to the large amount of rules we have, it’s important to utilise technology to get the big calls right. However, it’s also important to not go too far and become over-reliant on technology. When a referee is 98 percent certain of a decision, he must have the confidence in his own abilities and take responsibility for decision-making. I felt Poite got the balance right and, despite his many detractors, I’m of the view that he is a good Test referee.”
READ Matt Stevens' full interview with Sport24