All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says referee Romain Poite was right to eject Bok hooker Bismarck du Plessis for foul play, reports JON CARDINELLI in Auckland.
Du Plessis was yellow-carded in the 17th minute for a shoulder charge on All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter, and then shown a second yellow for another transgression in the 42nd minute. Du Plessis ran at All Blacks No 6 Liam Messam, leading with the elbow and inadvertently hitting Messam in the throat.
Replays would confirm that neither incident warranted a yellow card and that on both occasions Poite had got it wrong.
Nevertheless, it was because of these decisions that the Boks were forced to play 48 minutes of the game with 14 men. These decisions undoubtedly changed the course of the game and determined the outcome.
However, when Hansen spoke at the post-match press conference, he downplayed the influence of these dubious calls.
While Hansen conceded that Du Plessis was unfortunate to receive a yellow for the first incident, he was adamant that the Bok hooker deserved his marching orders for the second.
It was also clear that Hansen genuinely believed the All Blacks had earned this victory through their own efforts.
'It's an intense Test match, and you're always going to have those moments,' Hansen said. 'The referee's got to make decisions in those moments.
'Bismarck was probably a wee bit unlucky to get a yellow for tackling Dan, but the ref probably got the other ones right [aside from Du Plessis's two yellows, the All Blacks conceded two cards of their own in the second half]. We've got no complaints. That's rugby, and you have to get on with it.'
That Hansen would admit Du Plessis did not deserve the first yellow spoke volumes. If Du Plessis had not been sin-binned in the 17th minute, he would not have been in a position to receive a second yellow card, and ultimately a red that would see the Boks finishing the game with 14 men.
In short, if the first yellow wasn't a yellow, the Boks would not have played 48 minutes without one of their key players.
When it was suggested that the Boks were hard done-by, and that the All Blacks' victory was not all their own doing, Hansen bristled.
He pointed to the second incident where Du Plessis had caught Messam in the throat. Hansen felt the act demanded immediate ejection.
'Let's not go too far with the robbed [concept], he said. 'I don't think it's legal to go around putting your elbow on someone's throat. The second one may well have been a [straight] red.'
Hansen also took the opportunity to take aim at the critics who had slammed his selections of Dane Coles, Sam Cane, and Messam earlier in the week. It seemed lost on the All Blacks coach that the South African pack had operated for 48 minutes of the game with only seven men.
How the All Blacks proved a point by bullying a seven-man pack only Hansen will know.
'I think that anybody who watched the game could see the intensity. In the end you pay the price for indiscipline, and we paid it twice. I'd really hate to think that this Test match is remembered for that.
'There's a lot of other stuff that makes it a memorable Test match. I mean, take Sam Cane ... there were a lot of question marks. To come in and play like that, that's worth writing about.
'Brodie Retallick really stood up. Beauden Barrett coming on and replacing Dan and looking like he'd been there all his life; those are the things we should remember about the game. We asked Dane Coles to step up into the big ball park, and I felt he did pretty good. He said he noted the difference in intensity when the the two best teams in the world play.'
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images
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