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