OPINION: One week of reflection allows for some perspective.
Sure, Romain Poite's actions and multiple decision-making blunders overshadowed the All Blacks victory against the Springboks last week.
But to suggest the Frenchman favoured the All Blacks is pure hot air.
One look at Kieran Read's yellow card - a minor lineout infringement - should clear up any apparent bias. And, just quietly, there was no whinging about that howler.
More accurately, Poite was spooked by the occasion. A quality referee is near invisible. The officiator should never be the focal point.
Yes, the first yellow card given to Bismarck du Plessis was disgraceful. No doubt it marred the spectacle, and result. Why the technology wasn't used only Poite knows.
In the final wash-up, though, of what should have been a memorable battle between the world's two best rugby nations, it's also hard to shake the sense du Plessis got off lightly for his forceful forearm on Liam Messam.
In any other circumstances, the Boks hooker would have been suspended, on top of being binned.
Thrusting the solid, indeed, sharp end of your elbow into someone's throat is incredibly dangerous. It's thuggish tactics.
Don't be fooled, Bismarck knew what he was doing - there's a good distance between your hand and elbow, a clear divide between a legal fend with your palm and possibly breaking your opponent's collarbone or impairing their throat and, indeed, breathing ability. A two week ban would not have been unjust.
But, thanks to Poite, the judiciary was swayed towards leniency, rather than further sanction.
Incredibly, Messam has copped a constant stream of vitriol out of the frustrated Republic.
Not even his son was safe from the abuse. Apparently, Messam faked the injury to ham up the incident. Sorry folks. Get a grip. This is not the English Premiership.
So, naturally, the whole of South Africa is seeing red, baying for blood in the return clash at Ellis Park, which should, for the record, be a firecracker.
The All Blacks are the villains. Conspiracy theories abound. Somehow, Steve Hansen's men played a role in Poite's impaired vision and dodgy decisions. There. Shall. Be. Retribution on October 5.
Well, let the Boks stew. Let them play them revenge card. They'll need more than pure physicality to steamroll the All Blacks, even if Richie McCaw's knee doesn't recover in time.
While few definitive conclusions can be drawn, thanks once more to Poite, it was crystal clear if you watched the game more than once and took the emotion out of the equation, the Boks reverted to type.
They showed character to battle with 14-men but they were predictable.
For all the talk of a new-found attacking mentality they never attempted to be creative. Until this mentality shift is made the Boks will continue to play second fiddle.
Ambushing the All Blacks in Johannesburg won't work. There needs to be more than the bully approach.
Hansen and co can see it coming from Buenos Aires, Argentina, where they arrive today.
The All Blacks forward pack didn't get the credit they deserved for weathering the initial Bok onslaught. Du Plessis was a presence but he lacked support.
In many ways the home pack led the charge; embraced the combat. They'll be up for a repeat challenge. They, too, have a sour taste to spit out.
At this level you need more than emotion. The Boks must look past their thirst for vengeance.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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