Mark Reason: Why Springboks sub Damian de Allende had to get a red card
OPINION: Wayne Smith may not have even minded losing what is probably his final game as an All Blacks coach. Just to hear the stands of Newlands echoing with the roars of men long dead was enough to put a song in any rugby man's heart. The All Blacks need South Africa to be great again and, just for one glorious day, the Boks were back.
Of course there will also be much chatter about Damian de Allende's red card, so let's get that out of the way first. I am delighted he was sent off. The only way we are ever going to get the tackle height down is if idiots like like de Allende are thrown out of the game.
It wasn't just that the South African hit Lima Sopoaga late with a forearm across the throat. The apologists will say that there was not much force to it, not much danger, and of course they are right.
But Jerome Garces was absolutely correct in sending de Allende from the pitch because the hit was so absurdly late. In that sense it was an act of thuggery. De Allende could have booked a taxi to take him from the ground in the time it took to get to Sopoaga after he had kicked the ball.
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Now I have time for Justin Marshall as a commentator, but like so many ex players he is an unacceptable apologist for this sort of behaviour. He used words like 'lazy' and 'clumsy' and said that "tiddlewinks springs to mind." Really? I have never played tiddlywinks when my opponent has decided to put his forearm to my throat a full second after I have tiddled my wink.
Garces said, "It's late, deliberate, I just want to know if the elbow or the arm touched the neck."
The replay confirmed that it had and so Garces sent de Allende from the field because of the lateness, the height and the intent. That was quite enough without the need for massive force. And the only way we are going to protect players' heads is by giving courageous referees like Garces our support.
The Frenchman, who is now the best in the world by some margin, was outstanding yesterday. He even asked his TMO to double check the grounding on the All Blacks' dodgy first try. Rowan Kitt strangely decided that although Ryan Crotty did not have control, the ball went backwards before he applied downward pressure. It was borderline, but splitting hairs on super slow mo has always seemed the wrong way to go.
Garces had control of this match. He pinged the Springboks scrum when their tighthead angled in and he pinged the All Blacks for their lack of efficiency around the clean out. But more than that, the All Blacks tackling was much improved on their shameful head hunting of recent months.
There can be several reasons for that. Either the management have got fed up with the yellow cards, or World Rugby's head of referees has stepped in and issued a private warning or they know they will get dealt to by Garces.
The All Blacks know that if Nigel Owens or Jaco Peyper is in charge they can probably get away with a warning for high tackles. But Garces correctly sees red at such incidents and his strictness will act as a deterrent and help clean up the game.
There were a couple of high shots from Liam Squire, but generally the All Blacks tackling was lower and safer than it has been of late. There was also a stupendous hit just under the ribs by Dane Coles on Elton Jantjies in the first half that showed it is possible to still be legal and intimidating.
The major worry for the All Blacks is that their attack is really struggling to create off their own ball. Again all their points yesterday, indeed nearly all their penetrative rugby, came off defence and turnover ball. That is a fine farewell for Professor Smith, but you worry about the future a little.
A shout out for a few All Blacks positives. It was a pleasure to see Sam Cane prove that a great pass does not have to be a spun pass. Damian McKenzie - and his tackle the week before against Argentina will live long in the memory - made another vital defensive read on the tackle as well as that swerve away from Francois Louw for the try. Nehe Milner-Skudder's stepping and hands were also things of joy until sadly he had to leave the pitch.
But maybe this is a day to give South Africa the bigger shout. Malcolm Marx and Steven Kitshoff dominated the fringes of the breakdown. They turned over a ton of ball and exposed New Zealand's habitually weak defensive seam close to ruck and maul. The South African forwards were aggressive, restored their lineout, and the team missed far fewer tackles. It helps, of course, to pick a better team
The two voids, one on either side, were Jantjies and Sonny Bill, who both gave away a foolishly large amount of possession. But we will get to them on another day. This was a test match to celebrate. Kieran Read called it a "great test match, one of those you will remember."
South Africa has survived for too long on memories. For the good of the world game and for the good of the All Blacks, you just hope this is the start of something better. South Africa's results in junior World Cups show they have enough good kids coming through. And rugby will be a far more vibrant place if those kids can now stand up as men against the likes of New Zealand and England.