Cheika takes aim at referee

The Rugby Championship
by Sam Phillips

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has taken aim at referee Ben O'Keeffe in the wake of the 27-all draw with the Springboks.

It was a hot and heavy contest for the Kiwi referee to officiate and while he allowed the match to flow, there were undoubtedly some clangers.

Cheika prefaced his comments by complimenting O'Keeffe as a star of the future but he also identified several key moments which hurt the Wallabies.

"Ben is a very good young referee," Cheika said.

"He’s got an excellent temperament and he’s only starting out in the Tier One matches but there was some forward passes, knock-ons, the most disappointing thing for us is the goal that equalised the game, there’s no doubt that Du Toit is offside into that ruck.Israel Folau was involved in a controversial moment of his own. Photo: Getty Images"And then the other side when Michael (Hooper) makes a tackle on Jantjies he has a second grab at the ball when he’s on the ground.

"He’s playing the ball on the ground, there’s kick right in front with three minutes to go.

"These are key moments."

Cheika also took a unique view on Israel Folau's hair pull on Springboks winger Dillyn Leyds, insisting that the vision showed the fullback had done nothing wrong when it did quite the opposite, even if the grab was unintentional.

"He grabbed him by the collar, you’ve got to watch the vision," Cheika said.

"Watch the vision, he got him by the collar.

"He didn’t come in and grab him by the hair.The Wallabies got through plenty of defensive work. Photo: Getty Images"When you watch the vision and you see him grab him by the hair."

That was a key moment and there were indeed some costly refereeing mistakes but the Wallabies still had plenty of chances to put the result beyond doubt at Free State Stadium.

There were four quantifiable moments in which they left points on the park and in the end, that left a bitter taste in the mouth, even if a draw on South African turf evokes a better feeling than one on Australian soil.

"I thought we worked hard enough to get a win but it wasn’t to be," Cheika said.

"What I was pleased about the resilience we showed.

"That came with the strategy to try and run us out of puff on the Highveld, they just started playing from the first play and what we didn’t do is perhaps get our tackles better - if we made more tackles to be able to finish on top we could have slowed it down a bit."Ned Hanigan ensured the Wallabies were still firing in the final minute. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Boks had 59 percent of the ball and consequently forced the Wallabies to make an additional 39 tackles.

That would have meant a gassed Australian side in previous years but the carries and tackles alike were as emphatic in the 80th minute as they were in the first.

"All in all I thought we managed that really well," Cheika said.

"We managed the altitude fitness wise.

"That was a clear strategy they had.

"It came down to a few little bits and pieces here or there for not winning the match."