Former All Blacks and New Zealand’s media have lamented the impact of red and yellow cards in Test rugby following the All Blacks’ “heartbreaking” 12-11 loss to the Springboks in Saturday’s World Cup final.
While the Springboks have been praised after clinching the Webb Ellis Cup for a record fourth time, former All Black Test stars Israel Dagg and John Kirwan are critical of the officials who they believe cost the All Blacks dearly.
Dagg believes Test rugby’s spectacle is disappearing due to the increasing use of red and yellow cards for foul play and offences.
The All Blacks played the last 53 minutes of the match with 14 players after Sam Cane’s yellow card was changed to a red card for a high tackle on Jesse Kriel.
Dagg said that although the offense was serious, priority should have been given to punishment after a match as a ruling on the field in this case had tipped the match too far in South Africa’s favour.
Dagg also said the yellow card given to Shannon Frizell for falling on Bongi Mbonambi’s legs, forcing the Springbok hacker out of the game with an injury, was not justified.
He directed his criticism at referee Wayne Barnes and television match official Tom Foley.
“This is our showpiece event, which has been overshadowed by a few people who take away the glory and glamor of the players,” Dagg told Sky Sport.
“I’m honestly just fed up … it puts fear in the minds of our players. You can see why people turn the game off because it’s so hell boring since you don’t have the best players on the pitch.
“There were some controversial moments but deal with it after the game. There was no malice in (Cane’s tackle) and Jesse Kriel is okay.”
New Zealand media also highlighted Cane’s penalty as the final’s key moment, with the New Zealand Herald who described the defeat as “heartbreaking”.
“It was a sad moment for the game and the World Cup because nobody, presumably, wanted a red card to be the difference in the final.”
Kirwan, in turn, praised the gripping nature of the final, praised the Springboks and referred to captain Siya Kolisi and Cheslin Kolbe’s yellow cards in the second half.
However, he believes that Kolisi’s offense warranted a red card.
“I feel like crying because Sam Cane, it’s so hard for the man,” Kirwan said, adding: “I don’t know why (Kolisi’s yellow) wasn’t raised to a red.”
Kirwan said the defeat was a bitter pill to swallow for the nine players from the All Black group who did not renew their contracts and therefore probably will not play another test.
Veteran hacker Dane Coles is the only player to retire, but eight other players have signed overseas club contracts, making them ineligible for the All Blacks – including Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett.
It was also the last Test for coach Ian Foster with Scott Robertson set to take charge next year.
“New Zealand should be incredibly proud of the courage shown by 14 men,” says Kirwan.
“Excellent teams must win. The Springboks will be an outstanding team because they won the World Cup.
“What this team will be remembered for and what we should all be proud of is coming through the adversity. To get the difficult decisions and continue to perform.”