A shocking last-minute decision from referee Angus Gardner should not be used as an excuse for the Springboks’ disappointing defeat to England on Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
With the final play of the game, a dour Test match descended into controversy when Owen Farrell completed what looked to be a dangerous no-arms tackle on André Esterhuizen.
Gardner heard a ‘check check’ call in his ear from the TMO, and despite reviewing the footage on the big screen, he made the decision that there was enough of ‘a wrap’ in the tackle for it deemed to be a fair hit.
Make no mistake, it was a barely believable decision to not even award a penalty, while it also appeared that the officials missed the fact that England had strayed offsides during the final stages of the game.
Yet, despite this poor officiating, the Boks have to look primarily at themselves, and the poor decision-making and basic errors that prevented them from building much-needed scoreboard pressure after a dominant first-half performance.
For so much of this highly-anticipated clash at Twickenham, the Boks consistently conspired against themselves. The end result is a disappointing one-point loss that will feel like a sucker punch to the gut, but the fact remains that the Boks really only have themselves to blame.
In so many aspects of the game, the Springboks bossed proceedings against England in the opening stanza, and yet somehow they only had a two-point lead to show for it at the break.
For 10 minutes of the first half, the Boks played against 14 men after Maro Itoje had been shown a yellow card, and yet they conceded three points during this time.
On more than one occasion, the Springboks turned down a shot at goal to set up a lineout, and yet this set piece repeatedly malfunctioned.
In all, the Boks lost four lineouts, with Malcolm Marx enduring an utter off-day when it came to his throwing in at this set piece, with two overthrows in the first half proving to be particularly costly.
In total, the Boks enjoyed 75% of territory and 67% of possession in that first half, while making 200m to 78 and forcing England to make 88 tackles to 30.
For all that dominance, the Boks should have ensured an inexperienced England side was dead and buried by half-time.
Instead, the Springboks’ lineout woes and as many as eight handling errors in the first half saw the visitors only manage to establish an 8-6 half-time lead.
It allowed England to remain in with a sniff, and they ultimately made the Boks pay in a second half that finished with a controversy that shouldn’t ultimately overshadow what was a shoddy all-round performance from South Africa.
Photo: Henry Browne/Getty Images