French referee Romain Poite is Public Enemy No 1 for Springbok fans after his telling and ultimately disastrous turn in the showdown between South Africa and New Zealand in the Rugby Championship clash at Eden Park in Auckland yesterday.
Poite controversially yellow- and then red-carded powerhouse Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis, blighting what had promised to be an epic clash as the All Blacks eventually ran out 29-15 victors.
Poite, who late in the game also yellow-carded All Black captain Kieran Read and Ma’a Nonu, has quickly replaced New Zealand ref Bryce Lawrence as a figure of hate for South African fans. Lawrence infamously blew the Boks off the park in a dispiriting quarter-final loss to Australia at World Cup 2011.
Social networking sites went crazy in the aftermath of the Auckland clash as fans and pundits vented their fury at the Frenchman.
“What a disgraceful yellow card for Du Plessis. Great tackle,” tweeted former Wales flyhalf Jonathan Davies.
Former Bok coach Nick Mallet said the entire match had been ruined by poor refereeing decisions.
“This was an absolute disgrace. A match of this quality deserved to have 15 players on the field.”
Many felt that Poite had succumbed to pressure from baying All Black players and fans upset at the tackle on rugby’s golden boy Dan Carter, who left the field with a serious shoulder injury which is likely to rule him out for up to two months.
Fan Gerhard Posthumus tweeted: “CONUNDRUM: If Romain Poite and Bryce Lawrence were drowning in a river and you could only save one. What sandwich would you make?”
Meanwhile, sports apparel manufacturer adidas recalled the All Blacks’ playing jerseys last night after an embarrassing error led to the word “Africa” being misspelt on the players’ kit as “Arfica”.
All Black star Carter tweeted a picture of the misspelt word before the match, drawing ridicule from Springbok fans.
An Adidas spokeswoman said the firm accepted responsibility for the mistake. “Adidas New Zealand have become aware that the All Blacks jerseys for the test versus South Africa have an embroidered spelling error. The players’ jerseys are being collected after the game to have the error rectified. Adidas apologises to the players for any inconvenience.” – Weekend Argus