All Blacks coach Foster questions Cane’s red card but denies it’s ‘sour grapes’

All Blacks coach Foster questions Cane’s red card but denies it’s ‘sour grapes’
All Blacks captain Sam Cane after the team's narrow defeat at the hands of South Africa in the World Cup final on 28 October 2023. (Photo: Cameron Spencer / Getty Images)

All Blacks captain Sam Cane became the first player in history to be red-carded in a Rugby World Cup final as New Zealand lost 12-11 to South Africa.

Outgoing All Blacks coach Ian Foster tried to be diplomatic about the red card issued to skipper Sam Cane but eventually couldn’t as the pain of the incident set in.

Cane was initially yellow-carded for ramming his shoulder, with huge force, into Bok centre Jesse Kriel’s head in the 29th minute of Saturday’s Rugby World Cup 2023 final at Stade de France.

At that stage the All Blacks were 9-3 down and had been under immense pressure for most of the first half hour. Referee Wayne Barnes made the signal for the incident to be reviewed in the Bunker, where an independent match official had eight minutes to view all angles and assess whether an upgrade to red was warranted. He did, in this instance.

By the time that message was relayed back to the field, the All Blacks were 12-3 down and had just repelled a Bok attack on their line.

If anything, the outcome seemed to spur the All Blacks to a new level and it was the Boks that held on for much of the second half to win 12-11.

It was a dramatic finale to a tournament that started in 38-degree heat in Paris on 8 September and ended in an icy, wet eight degrees at Stade France on 28 October.

Boks skipper Siya Kolisi was later yellow-carded for making head contact with Ardie Savea early in the second half. Kolisi’s first contact appeared to be on Savea’s shoulder and then it rode up, while the Bok captain was also bent at the waist in a clear attempt to lower his body height. Cane was upright.

These small details matter in the review process. It’s not clear if Foster had seen the replay of both incidents because his assessment in the post-match media conference bordered on absurdity.

“There was an attempt to wrap (his arms),” Foster said of Cane’s incident. “There didn’t seem to be a lot of force in the contact.

“The hit on Ardie (by Kolisi) had a lot of force, and had a direct contact on the head. So, the game has got a few issues it’s got to sort out. That’s not sour grapes. You’ve got two different situations, with different variables, and one’s a red card and one’s a yellow card, and that’s the game.”

Well, except it wasn’t. Foster was understandably upset and frustrated, and Cane was naturally distraught, but unfortunately, based on the laws as they stand, both calls were correct.

The Boks were well on top at the time of Cane’s card and struggled after the red, which often happens for some reason.

Kolisi chose to take the high road after the match.

“I want to give credit to the All Blacks. They took us to the end, they took us to a dark place,” Kolisi said. “It shows what kind of team they are, to fight with a man down from early in the game. They put us under so much pressure.”

Foster unhappy over Sam Cane red card

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster has questioned the red card handed down to captain Sam Cane during the Rugby World Cup final on 28 October in France. (Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Frizell’s cheap shot

The All Blacks might also count themselves lucky that flank Shannon Frizell’s ugly neck roll and then apparently deliberate collapse onto hooker Bongi Mbonambi’s knee in the second minute, only remained a yellow.

That incident ended Mbonambi’s night and forced 37-year-old Deon Fourie to play almost the entire match.

Fourie, who started life as a hooker but has not played in the position for the better part of seven years, struggled to connect with his jumpers in the lineout. The Boks lost five throws, which was one of the major factors in the All Blacks gaining a foothold in the match.

Fourie was magnificent in other areas though. His work in the battle for the ball on the deck was outstanding and his workrate on defence sublime.

“If you’d asked me which injuries we wouldn’t like early on, it would be Bongi and Faf (de Klerk),” Bok coach Jacques Nienaber said afterwards.

“But that’s the decision we made with the squad we selected. There is always risk involved but we mitigated that.

“I don’t know how many lineouts we lost, but with Deon Fourie, if there are maybe 16 lineouts in a game, there are 120, 150 rucks in a game, and he makes 20 tackles.

“Sometimes the lineouts he loses, he makes up for it in other ways. At 37, to put in a shift like that is special. I have coached Deon since he was 20 years old and I always knew he had that dog in him.”

The Boks also suffered another yellow card when wing Cheslin Kolbe was sin-binned for a deliberate knock down with eight minutes to go.

It required a massive defensive effort to hold the All Blacks out in those final, frantic minutes and no player embodied the cause more than brilliant flank Pieter-Steph du Toit.

He tackled himself to a standstill, ploughing into All Blacks ball carriers with scarcely believable power and accuracy. He made 28 tackles in the match. Considering the stakes and the stage, it might have been the greatest performance by any Springbok, in any match.

“He (Pieter-Steph) was phenomenal. Defence is my department and he was exceptional,” Nienaber said.

“I must say in the last couple of games, he wanted it desperately. Not only him, but everyone wanted it desperately. He put himself in the right positions. I always joke that if there’s a white plastic bag that blows over the field, he would probably chase that down as well. He is the Malmesbury Missile; he was like a machine.” DM




Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    Foster probably hadn’t had a chance to see the replays at that time, so we can forgive him. Let’s hope the trials coming up with ‘community’ teams (whatever they are) being restricted to tackling below the sternum bare fruit, but why something as important as that will only bear any fruit in 2025 is daft with such an obviously important issue like, heaven only knows. And still no indication that it would be accepted. Fair enough I stopped playing over 50 years ago, but we never tackled as high as these okes do now. Just saying.

    • Enver Klein says:

      When I played, in the days of no subs/reserves, it was a lot tougher IMO. However, we were taught that no man can run without his legs and if he was too flashy, his ribs were a very good alternative, we never tackled above the sternum, back then. If you did, you were employing the incorrect technique and were forced to spend a lot more hours with the tackling bags.

      • Steve Davidson says:

        I hear you, Enver, but disagree a little. I reckon we suffered pain(!) but because we were going for the softer parts of the body, particularly the thighs, it wasn’t as dangerous or painful as now. But, and hear comes the moan, I seriously believe that this standing up tackling is due to the breakdown rules where the attackers don’t have enough space to either move the ball out to the wings, or get up enough speed to get past the defenders, because of the fact that the proposed rule changes that in 2016 were squashed by the NZRU because it would have stopped their turnovers that lead apparently to 75% of their tries. Sorry if I’ve mentioned this before but I’m still really cross, especially when I see all these head injuries due to these tackles, which IMHO are a direct result of that slow attacking, and the amount of kicking that is a result of teams saying it’s not worth trying to run as as soon as you get isolated (and this is the second rule change they squashed) the tackle rule allows the defenders too much ability to rip the ball away and score unfairly. The main rule change would have been a 1m offside line behind the last loose scrum player’s back foot which would have opened up the game, and the tackle rule meant the tackler had to release the attacker, stand up, and come round through the ‘gate’ before attacking the ball. So you can see why the NZRU did it, and it still causes issues.

  • Betsy Kuhn says:

    Mr Coach, I feel for Cane, and the All Blacks, but there was a huge difference between the 2 incidents..Unfortunately that Cost NZ.

    • Paddy Ross says:

      I disagree. If Cane was adjudged ‘red’ then Kolisi should have been ‘red’ also. I do acknowledge that Tom Foley would probably have been lynched if he had given Kolisi ‘red’.

      • Ben Harper says:

        You obviously don’t understand the rule then

      • Enver Klein says:

        Watch the replay of Kolisi’s tackle!!! Kolisi’s shoulder hits Savea’s arm with a lot of force and the “whiplash” causes Savea’s head to bounce which results in Kolisi’s head hitting Savea’s.
        The All Blacks have a cynical foul part of the game, and after watching the game a few times, I am 90% convinced that Frizzel’s “attack” on Bongi was deliberate. Had Bongi been able to play at least 50 minutes, we would have won by more than 1 point. Our lineouts were just a wee bit more than woeful after Bongi left the field. We can all have a “he/she said” moan about what decisions were incorrect from both sides. The Springboks won deservedly and even more so, a WC South Africa should have been hosting if not for some “skullduggery” by the French administrators.

  • Jan Malan says:

    That tackle on Bongi Mbonambi look very suspicious that it was done on purpose. To have lost Bongi in the opening minutes nearly cost us the game.

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