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All Blacks unhappy with Rugby World Cup officiating after losing thriller to Springboks

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While the Springboks were praised for winning a fourth Rugby World Cup title, former Test stars Israel Dagg and John Kirwan were critical of officiating they believe cost the All Blacks dearly.

New Zealand's openside flanker and captain Sam Cane reacts as he walks past the Web Ellis Cup after South Africa won the France 2023 Rugby World Cup Final match between New Zealand and South Africa at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, on the outskirts of Paris
The All Blacks spent the last 53 minutes reduced to 14 men after captain Sam Cane (pictured) was shown red for a high tackle on Jesse Kriel. Picture: Anne-Christine Poujoulat, AFP

Former All Blacks and New Zealand’s media lamented the impact of cards in Test rugby following the “heart-wrenching” 12-11 loss to South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final on Saturday.

While the Springboks were praised for clinching the Webb Ellis Cup for a fourth time by winning a tense decider in Paris, former Test stars Israel Dagg and John Kirwan were critical of officiating they believe cost the All Blacks dearly.

Dagg claimed Test rugby was being eroded as a spectacle by the increasing use of red and yellow cards for foul play and professional fouls.

The All Blacks spent the last 53 minutes reduced to 14 men after captain Sam Cane was shown red for a high tackle on Jesse Kriel.

Red card the killer blow

Dagg said while the offence was serious, rugby’s lawmakers needed to make post-game punishment a priority, as an on-field ruling had in this case tilted the game too far in South Africa’s favour.

Dagg also said an early yellow card shown to Shannon Frizell for dropping on the legs of Bongi Mbonambi – forcing the Springboks hooker out of the game with an injury – was not justified.

He aimed his criticism at referee Wayne Barnes and television match official Tom Foley – both Englishmen.

“This is our showpiece event, which has been overshadowed by a couple of people that are just taking the glory and the gloss away from the players,” Dagg told Sky Sport.

“I’m honestly just fed up … it is putting apprehension in the mind of our players.

“You can see why people switch off the game, because it’s as boring as hell, because you don’t have the best players out there.

“There were some contentious moments but deal with it after the game. There was no malice in (Cane’s tackle) and Jesse Kriel is fine.”

Media outlets also highlighted Cane’s punishment as the final’s key moment, with a New Zealand Herald headline calling the defeat “heart wrenching”.

“It was a sad moment for the game and the World Cup because no one, presumably, wanted a red card to be the differentiator in the final,” its website report said.

Kirwan hailed the riveting nature of the final, delivering praise to the Springboks and noting they had two players shown yellow cards in the second half – captain Siya Kolisi and winger Cheslin Kolbe.

However, he believed Kolisi’s head high contact offence warranted red.

“I feel like crying, because Sam Cane, that’s so tough on the man,” Kirwan said, adding: “I don’t know why (Kolisi’s yellow) wasn’t elevated to a red.”

Not ‘great’ team

Kirwan said defeat would be hard to take for the nine members of the All Blacks squad who haven’t renewed their contracts so probably won’t play another Test.

Veteran hooker Dane Coles is the only player to retire but eight have signed offshore club contracts, making them ineligible for the All Blacks – among them Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett.

It was also the last Test of coach Ian Foster’s sometimes difficult four-year tenure, with Scott Robertson to take charge next year.

“New Zealand should be incredibly proud of the courage 14 men showed,” said Kirwan, who stopped short of labelling the New Zealand team a great one.

“Great teams have got to win. The Springboks will be a great team because they won the World Cup.

“What this team will be remembered for and we all should be proud of is coming through the adversity. Getting the tough decisions and continuing to perform.”

Fans unimpressed

There was disappointment for thousands of supporters who gathered at bars or public venues for the match which kicked off at 8am local time.

The largest gathering was to watch a big screen at Auckland’s Eden Park – the scene of New Zealand World Cup final triumphs in 1987 and 2007.

Rugby player Kai Ta’e was ambivalent after the fulltime whistle.

“Extremely proud but, you know, they had their chances to win,” he told AFP.

“That’s footy at the end of the day. Someone’s got to win, someone’s got to lose.”

Carpenter John Dinner was less phlegmatic, saying it was appropriate Foster’s chequered time in charge should end in defeat.

“Yeah, he’s a disappointment to the country. I can’t stand behind a man that leads an All Blacks team to that kind of loss.”

AFP

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