Sport

RWC 2023

France captain Dupont unhappy with ref after Les Bleus fall to Boks in World Cup quarterfinal

France captain Dupont unhappy with ref after Les Bleus fall to Boks in World Cup quarterfinal
Eben Etzebeth of South Africa tackling Antoine Dupont (captain) of France during the Rugby World Cup 2023 quarterfinal match between France and South Africa at Stade de France on 15 October 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo: Steve Haag / Gallo Images)

France captain Antoine Dupont was critical of referee Ben O’Keeffe after his side lost the Rugby World Cup (RWC) quarterfinal 29-28 to the Springboks at Stade de France on Sunday.

A disconsolate Dupont questioned whether O’Keeffe was up to the task, although he didn’t reference specific incidents. 

One issue might have been when Bok lock Eben Etzebeth knocked the ball down when France had a two-man overlap. He appeared to knock the ball back towards his own goal line, which was why O’Keeffe allowed play to continue. But the referee never reviewed it. 

“I’m not sure the refereeing was at the level of what was at stake,” Dupont said. 

“There are few clear things where the whistle could’ve blown. We could’ve had some crucial penalties, but I don’t want to be a bad loser.” 

Coach Fabien Galthié stepped in to stop the matter going further and probably landed Dupont in trouble with the powers of the game. 

“I’m not going to go there. We worked with the refs to try to play along with them and will continue to work with them,” Galthié said. 

‘There is a lot of frustration and emotion after the game. We all watched this game. We’d like to congratulate the South African team and wish them well. 

“There are so many key moments. When you’re leading 7-0 and Etzebeth cut off the ball. That was a strong moment for us and we weren’t able to finish off. Soon afterwards it was 7-7. Those are key moments … which add up. So many things went on.” 

Boks skipper Siya Kolisi was nonplussed by the suggestion they had been favoured by the ref. 

“It was an amazing game, it was tough, physically it flowed,” Kolisi said. 

“The way the two teams played outshines everything else. It was an amazing atmosphere. The French team have been building for four years so we knew it would take something special for us to win this game. 

“For a leader like Antoine to come back and play like he did, we give credit to him and France, and all the French people who made this World Cup so special. 

“When we heard the anthems, we knew how loud it was going to be. The people of France can be proud of their team. The French team and Antoine can hold their heads up high.” 

Bok coach Jacques Nienaber praised O’Keeffe, who was under pressure from a wildly partisan crowd. 

“I thought Ben was good on the day. You would say we won and that’s why I’m saying that,” Nienaber said. “We tried to take the referee out of the game — we scored four tries, and missed one or two, and one from the tee. We managed it well. I thought his communication on the day was excellent in terms of the decisions he made.” 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Rugby World Cup 2023 News Hub

Cameron Woki of France and Eben Etzebeth of South Africa contest a line-out during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 quarterfinal match between France and South Africa at Stade de France on 15 October 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo: Mike Hewitt / Getty Images)

Faf de Klerk of South Africa wins the ball to end the game during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 quarterfinal match between France and South Africa at Stade de France on 15 October 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo: Warren Little / Getty Images)

Players of South Africa celebrate after the Rugby World Cup 2023 quarterfinal match between France and South Africa in Saint-Denis, France, 15 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Yoan Valat)

Fine margins 

France fullback Thomas Ramos took a slightly different view to his skipper, admitting that it was small things that had cost the home team. 

“There were a few set pieces that allowed them to stay in our half. It’s always annoying to play in your own half,” Ramos said. 

“I think we did some good things in this match, but it wasn’t enough. We knew they were a powerful team. They were very strong in the rucks and tackles. Our half-backs couldn’t get clean ball. Tonight was tough. We lost to a team stronger than us.” 

Flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert added: “South Africa should also be congratulated for resisting our attacks and scoring when they had the chance. 

“We’re disappointed and frustrated. When you see the atmosphere today, the support from all our supporters, we’re disappointed. 

“We were in good shape physically, we managed to set up a fast-moving game, we had quite a lot of space but we weren’t able to capitalise. We made a lot of little mistakes, we were probably too hasty in trying to go too fast.

“They stuck to their plan, scoring three tries on the counterattack in the first half, playing a lot of pressure games and feeding off our mistakes and the referee’s whistle to score at the right moment and with success.” 

Kolisi said that the match turned on fine margins, one of them being when Bok left wing Cheslin Kolbe charged down Ramos’ conversion of France’s third try. In the final analysis, those two points were crucial. 

“It was a one-point game. Things like the charge-down from Cheslin, you don’t see that every day. It was going to take something special for us to win.” 

But the Boks also had to defend manically in the 10 minutes after halftime while Etzebeth was in the sin bin for making head contact with Uini Atonio. 

“We scrambled a lot and scrambled hard, especially when we were short of numbers. We did our research and worked as a team to stop them,” Kolisi said. 

“That’s who we are. We never give up. You can lose, but you never give up — and we knew it would take something special, and it did.” 

Nienaber singled out Kolbe’s little moment of magic. 

“Cheslin’s charge-down was special and you don’t see that often. That was someone chasing a lost cause, which is what we want,” Nienaber said. 

“We were opened up a couple of times, but the scrambling, the effort the players put in, was enormous.” DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    …of course he was. 😀

  • Bob Dubery says:

    A fantastic sporting contest. I’ve always thought that what you want is a tough, high quality game, both teams giving it maximum skill and effort right down to the wire, and your team wins by a small margin.

    And that’s what the Springboks and their supporters got.

    Les Bleus were devastated. They knew just how well they had played and how hard they had tried (that assault on the Springbok line in the dying minutes of the match). To do all that and lose by one point… We can tell them that they should be proud, and we can mean it and it’s true, but they’ll be hurting.

  • Carol Stewart says:

    Bear in mind that when we were on the line and looking like scoring near the end, the ball was knocked on by a French player and then only us, yet the ball was turned over to their scrum instead of ours. In every single game there are swings and roundabouts

  • guy.kilfoil37 says:

    Well, if we’re going to be critical of the ref, let’s do so with two sets of eyes. The first French maul was illegal. The maul is formed before the ball is in Woki’s hands. Go back and check the highlights. It’s plain as day. Penalty to the Boks, no first try, no 7-0 lead for the “Etzebeth knock-on/back”. There are so many examples like that. For both teams. Kwagga’s steal and the subsequent penalty than Handre landed should’ve been a French penalty as Smith’s hands were on the ground = illegal jackal. Let’s just say it was a great game of rugby with fine margins and either side could’ve won. But when the pressure was really on it was the French who made more mistakes: Jalibert’s backwards clearance, Ramos’ hitting a drop-out straight into touch, etc. I feel for the French but the ref had no part to play in the loss.

    • André Pelser says:

      Agree. There were referee oversights on both sides , neither side was more favoured. It is also not fair to all the players to single out specific incidents, although I am pretty certain that the Etsebeth slap back would have been yellow carded and penalty try awarded by most referees. However considering the cut and thrust of the game, and number of tries scored by both sides, even taking the momentum argument into account, it is doubtful that this incident would have determined the outcome of the match. Bok belief and guts was the deciding factor.

      • guy.kilfoil37 says:

        Well said mate. I only used the two examples above as a means to show the “balance” of any officiating mistakes made, not to be unfair to any of the players involved. It was quite simply an incredible game. And O’Keefe actually played a massive part in allowing it to be by letting the game flow.

  • Rob Wilson says:

    In general, the French have been gracious in defeat. That is not easy, especially at home with huge expectations. It could have gone either way, and I think both sides know that. Ben did not decide the outcome of this game, nor did he materially influence it. Du Pont obviously feels that it was slap down, many of us think the yellow card was very marginal and the crowd decided the outcome. There are close ties between players of these two nations through the club system and things will move on in France. Now to send King Charles men home to go and think again.

    • Graeme J says:

      Absolutely. Despite their obvious disappointment at losing, France had the decency to not just walk off the field but stayed to congratulate the Boks… as it should be.

      I hope the Boks thrash England. England were appalling losers in the last world cup.

  • Johan Buys says:

    THAT was actually the RWC23 Final.

  • Clifton Coetzee says:

    A magnificent game fought tooth and nail by both teams. Refs don’t see everything so naturally both teams had a few lucky calls. Les Bleus came out the starting blocks with a ferocity not often seen. But the Boks kept their discipline and won with a display of sheer guts and determination. A stunning game. I will probably watch it ten times.
    Congratulations to both teams and Ref O’Keefe for providing a rugby spectacle.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Great game and it was ever so close! I just can’t wrap my head around Faf the gaffe – what was he thinking?? With around a minute and half to go and well in the French half, he gifts the ball and possession to the other side when the standard go-to play is to keep the ball recycled within the forwards. That is what teams do from the last 4 minutes onwards if they are ahead and need to close out the game. His blunder nearly cost us the game as the French attacked with huge desperation and even conceding a penalty from around halfway could have sunk us. Virtually unforgiveable!

    • Martin Smith says:

      Faf redeemed himself by wrestling the ball back a few short moments later and thus winning the game.

    • Christopher Lang says:

      Running the clock down from four minutes out is mindless, and many games are lost just like this! Defending the clock is negative play and most great teams will take advantage of such tactics to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat! A team needs to keep it tight and must keep the pressure on. Attack is the best form of defense. In those last minutes, the Boks were very close to giving away a penalty in my opinion. I had the feeling that Ben O’Keefe was just waiting for the slightest opportunity to blow the Boks up!

  • Steve Davidson says:

    “One issue might have been when Bok lock Eben Etzebeth knocked the ball down when France had a two-man overlap. He appeared to knock the ball back towards his own goal line, which was why O’Keeffe allowed play to continue. But the referee never reviewed it.”

    Yeah because it was freaking obvious the ball went backwards! Where was du Pont when it happened? He might better comment on the totally ridiculous yellow card for Etzebeth – the only thing ‘yellow’ about it was the cowardice of the TMO who obviously didn’t want 70000 French supporters screaming their lungs out at him!

  • Steve Davidson says:

    I have to say this, and obviously a very biased Rassie fan, but two things that amazed me that definitely had his imprint on them.
    First the crossfield up and unders from Manie (who had a fantastic game), which started from left field scrums just inside the French 10 metre line, where Reinach went blindside, turned, lobbed the ball back to him, he launched I think three times and the Boks scored (twice I think?) as a result while the defence was battling to get back across. Vintage Rassie – why didn’t anyone else think of that? The second instance, where Willemse signaled for a scrum after his mark catch, they got a penalty, and it was a pity Libbok’s (or Pollard’s?) didn’t quite get out, on the French 10 metre line. Prearranged obviously, and more Rassie genius.
    The third, maybe not Rassie’s idea but certainly something he might have suggested, was Kolbe’s chargedown of Ramos’ conversion. I’ve never seen that in a professional game, and the fourth was Kolbe’s drop goal attempt at the back of a tight scrum, where Faf moved aside to let have a go (and he wasn’t far off either).

    Sheer brilliance.

  • Amanda Dinan says:

    An incredible game to watch. I’m not a rugby fundi, but it refs do err, and in this case, the errs seemed pretty even. When Etzebeth was yellow carded that seemed uncalled for. The French were superb and the crowd was intense. We can be proud of that game.

  • Confucious Says says:

    Yes… perhaps O’keefe should have penalised the French for being offside at the rucks and mauls, and oh, for being hit by the ball when Faf passed out the back of a ruck on their 5m line. How could that not have been a penalty? How. Yes Du Pont, perhaps the ref could have been better indeed!

  • Johann Olivier says:

    … and for all the talking, Bok victory in this monumental game came down to a single act of resolve infrequently attempted & vanishingly rarely executed successfully: Kolbe’s conversion charge down. A probable 2 points off the French slate.

  • ilike homophones says:

    Attack is the best form of defense. In those last minutes, the Boks were very close to giving away a penalty in my opinion. I had the feeling that Ben O’Keefe was just waiting for the slightest opportunity to blow the Boks up!
    I’ve always thought that what you want is a tough, …. …. … high quality game, … …. ….both teams giving it maximum skill and effort right down to the wire, …. …. ….and your team wins by a small margin.
    Go back and check the highlights. It’s plain as day. Penalty to the Boks, no first try, no 7-0 lead for the “Etzebeth knock-on/back”. There are so many examples like that.
    t is also not fair to all the players to single out specific incidents, although I am pretty certain that the Etsebeth slap back would have been yellow carded and penalty try awarded by most referees.
    In general, the French have been gracious in defeat. That is not easy, especially at home with huge expectations.
    Great game and it was ever so close! I just can’t wrap my head around Faf the gaffe – what was he thinking??
    a big thank you to Ashwin Willemse for providing additional information …. … ..

  • William Kelly says:

    Stunning, awesome, terrific game. By everyone on the field. End of.

  • Dexel prep says:

    I thought it was a spectacle of great rugby, having millions on the edge of their chairs…or on them. However, the big question that needs to be asked concerning the fairness of the ref is this, “Do you want O’Keeffe for our next game….anywhere? I’d agree with the disgruntled Du Pont that he’s not up to the standard. We don’t want to be debating whether the ref was equally bad for both sides. He needs to be a GREAT ref who doesn’t spoil the game for either side. The players and staff have sacrificed and trained exceptionally hard to get here. One cannot have a sub-standard ref spoil the game. I would chose Mathieu Raynal from my observation of his performance so far. Not perfect, but a higher standard.

    • David Edwards says:

      While I respect your opinion, I disagree – I would take Ben O’Keeffe over Wayne Barnes and any of the other refs, (btw Mathieu Raynal is I think French, so if he was allowed to officiate there may be some who would see the conflict of interest as problematic).
      Was O’Keeffe prefect, not at all.
      Were Les Bleus perfect, no, otherwise they would have won comfortably.
      Were the ‘boks perfect, not at all or they would have won comfortably.
      So the ref made some mistakes, he’s human, just as the players are.
      All we want from a ref is neutrality, quick decisions, consistency and the sense to know the game is not about him – I think O’Keeffe was the only ref for the occasion, anyone else and the game would not have been the classic we all enjoyed so much.
      Thanks Ben for allowing a great game to unfold, I’m sure you forgive any over passionate French supporters who blame you for their defeat, as do we all.
      Thanks to Les Bleus for giving us everything on the day, the result could have gone either way and had you won, we would be hurting too.

  • Sam Bowker says:

    Non Rugby fanatic opinion: Initially I felt like the ref may have missed a few things, but then it seemed as he was quite equally balanced towards each side, and encouraged play rather than a stop-start game. He was very clear and communicative giving players direction and forewarning to avoid having to stop play. In the end, I think he was excellent. Without taking a ball to the face the results could have been reversed quite easily. A heroic match by both sides.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

X

This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.


Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Become a Maverick Insider

This could have been a paywall

On another site this would have been a paywall. Maverick Insider keeps our content free for all.

Become an Insider
Daily Maverick Elections Toolbox

Download the Daily Maverick Elections Toolbox.

+ Your election day questions answered
+ What's different this election
+ Test yourself! Take the quiz