Rugby Championship

Refereeing under spotlight after Bok Test

2017-10-01 13:55
Eben Etzebeth and Ben O'Keeffe (Gallo)

Bloemfontein - Saturday's 27-27 draw between the Springboks and Australia got heated - both on the field and off of it.

There was the Dillyn Leyds hair-pulling saga, the Eben Etzebeth retaliation and a couple of fired up coaches in the post-match interviews. 

In the middle of all the drama was 28-year-old Kiwi referee Ben O'Keeffe

The young match official was placed firmly in the spotlight when, with 35 minutes gone, replays suggested that Israel Folau had tugged on Dillyn Leyds' hair when making a tackle. 

The situation was further intensified by Etzebeth's aggressive retaliation, but after looking at the footage O'Keeffe decided that he would not be dishing out any cards. 

But that wasn't only time that O'Keeffe's refereeing was questioned, and both coaches felt hard done by afterwards. 

Bok coach Allister Coetzee, without wanting to say too much, suggested that his side may have been unfairly treated at the breakdown as well as in a few of the scrums.

And when asked if Folau should have been sent off for his hair tug, Etzebeth replied with "no comment". 

But, somewhat strangely, Aussie coach Michael Cheika had no problem laying into O'Keeffe. 

After assuring everybody that he felt O'Keeffe was a quality referee, Cheika then pointed out a list of issues he had with the officiating on the day. 

"Ben is a very good young referee. He's going to be a great referee going forward, there is no doubt about it. He's got an excellent temperament and he's only starting out in the tier one matches," said Cheika.

"But there were some forward passes, knock-ons and I suppose, most disappointing for us, with the penalty that equalised the game there is no doubt that (Pieter-Steph) Du Toit is offside at that ruck.

"On the other side, when Michael (Hooper) makes a tackle on (Elton) Jantjies, he takes a second grab at the ball when he's on the ground ... he's playing the ball on the ground and that's a kick right in front with three minutes to go.

"These are key moments, but he is a very good referee. He is going to go a long way."

The Springboks will finish their Rugby Championship campaign by hosting New Zealand at Newlands this Saturday, while the Wallabies will travel to Argentina for a date with the Pumas.

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