Australian Rugby Union welcomes today’s admission from the International Rugby Board that match officials were at fault when they blocked a replacement by the Qantas Wallabies and left the Australians a man short for the final 14 minutes of last Saturday’s Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship match with South Africa in Pretoria.
The Qantas Wallabies attempted to replace the injured Tatafu Polota-Nau with fellow hooker Saia Faingaa, only to be told by match officials they were prohibited from making further substitutions.
Prop Benn Robinson was forced into a makeshift role as lineout thrower, scrums moved to uncontested and the Qantas Wallabies – in the face of a crushing injury toll – were forced to navigate the final quarter hour with only 14 players on the field.
They had earlier lost prop James Slipper to the sin bin, during which time the Springboks scored two of their five tries, one of them from a rolling maul while No.8 Radike Samo was being treated by medical staff for injury and the Australian pack was reduced to six forwards.
The match official team was led by referee Alain Rolland, who under the Laws of the Game, is the sole judge of fact. In this instance the referee and his team failed to interpret the law correctly.
It is ARU’s position that management of the issue was not best practice – and, in Rugby, accountability exists in equal measure for match officials as it does for players and coaches.
ARU hopes the referee has learnt from this error.
Despite the match officials’ inaccuracy, ARU Managing Director and CEO, John O’Neill AO, said no decisions on the night affected the final result of the Test won 31-8 by the Springboks.
“South Africa were absolutely the better side, we congratulate them, they dominated the match, and that is not up for debate at all,” Mr O’Neill said.
“However, given the circumstances where the Wallabies were dealing with a massive and mounting injury toll, it was frustrating and unfair for the team to carry additional burdens.
“The challenges they faced at a ground where no Australian team has ever won were difficult enough.
“So I appreciate the IRB acknowledging the match official team failed to recognise Law 3.12 which should have seen Saia Faingaa given the green light to replace Tatafu, and allow the Wallabies to play out the match with a full complement of 15 players.”