The Springboks have acknowledged that they must adapt to the decision-making of French referee Romain Poite in Saturday’s Test against England, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Bloemfontein.
Many Bok fans have still not forgiven Poite for his decision to send hooker Bismarck du Plessis to the sin bin when he misjudged what was a perfectly legal tackle on former All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter in a highly anticipated Test in 2013.
Later on in the match, Du Plessis received a second yellow card – and a subsequent red – for an elbow charge on Liam Messam, with the All Blacks going on to win the Test 29-15.
Although plenty of time has passed since then, Poite was also at the centre of controversy last year when he awarded the All Blacks what looked likely to be a match-winning penalty during the latter stages of the decisive Test against the British & Irish Lions, only to change his mind.
The appointment of Poite to referee Saturday’s clash between the Boks and England is more likely to cause a social media stir among fans, rather than in either team camp, but Springbok assistant coach Matt Proudfoot said it would be important for the players to be adaptable on the field.
‘I think the key is for the players to quickly make an assessment [of the referee’s decision-making] in the game. It’s easy to show them on video and to understand it in an environment of a training session, but to make the change on the field is different.
‘They have to quickly adapt, and that’s what we want to see. It’s all about a learning curve for the players, they do understand the way he officiates, but how quickly can they adapt to his decision-making?’
Both teams will be fully aware that there are certain different nuances between referees from the northern and southern hemisphere, but Proudfoot reiterated at Tuesday’s press conference that the Boks’ focus was firmly on what they could control.
Asked whether the rolling maul was one of the areas where the Boks were focused on making an improvement, the forwards coach said it was all part of the team’s learning process.
‘What we have to understand is that every international team contests set phases a little bit differently. They’ve got their own processes, and I think we got better as the game went on in terms of understanding that pressure. There is a big focus on that up north, and it’s about knowing how to repel the pressure points and to be dominant [with the maul]. The try Willie [le Roux] scored was a classic example of a maul working, we got the ball on the front foot and then moved it well.
‘We will have some [selection] changes this week, we want to build this team’s capacity leading up to the World Cup, and we need 20 forwards that can understand those pressures of playing against different teams.’
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