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Ref Watch: Boks can have no complaints about game's biggest call

By Paul Smith
South Africa's center Jesse Kriel (L) jumps to fight for the ball with Wales' centre George North (R) during an international rugby union match between South Africa and Wales at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein on July 9, 2022. (Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE / AFP) (Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP via Getty Images)

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Australia’s Angus Gardner really caught my eye during the Six Nations and he put in another extremely competent display during the disappointingly disjointed second test between South Africa and Wales.


With the World Cup now just over the horizon, Gardner is extremely well placed to be part of the refereeing squad and has a live chance of making it into the knock-out stages.

After straining to hear the minimal level of verbal input with which Andrew Brace controlled England’s win in Brisbane, it is fair to say that Gardner operates at the other extreme!

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He is loud and very clear in his instructions to the players – which doesn’t please everyone – but as a result there is no doubt about how he views what is in front of him and what he requires from the players. “Leave it please, don’t do that,” he barked at a South African forward soon after the break.

Gardner is also extremely proactive in trying to prevent offences. He regularly warns players to keep the lineout gap and stay onside and even goes as far as saying “thank you” and “well done” when things work out to his satisfaction.

Should international players require this level of input? Does he cross the line between coaching and refereeing? For me this style suits him and it works, but I can see how it might irritate.

Quarter 1Quarter 2Quarter 3Quarter 4
Pens against SA3225
Pens against Wales3161

Game management
This is a real strength for Gardner which was well illustrated during the opening quarter.

As Wales defended South Africa’s first meaningful attack, Gardner twice played penalty advantage against the visitors for midfield offside – on each time clearly identifying the culprit.


He then stopped the game ahead of Handre Pollard’s successful kick to advise Wales skipper Dan Biggar and anyone else listening: “Boys, be very careful down here on the line. There have been two offsides. You understand?”

With the red zone marker duly laid down, Gardner was quick to transfer responsibility to the visiting captain when the Springboks won another offside penalty when they next visited the Wales 22 in the 23rd minute.

“It’s the second time we’ve been down here and we’ve had two offside penalties,” Biggar was told. “Next time it will be a yellow card.”

Alun Wyn Jones yellow card
South Africa dominated a third quarter during which Wales conceded six penalties, five of which came at the breakdown.


However, the Springboks were unable to score the try that would have pushed hem more than seven points ahead, and when the visitors’ scramble defence slowed their possession around seven metres from their own line and five metres in from touch, Gardner seemingly received a call from Italian touch judge Andrea Piardi to advise that Alun Wyn Jones had handled in the ruck.

Based on the rising penalty count and this being a ‘red zone’ offence, Wales’ most-capped player was duly shown a yellow card. However, replays showed he had in fact made no contact with the ball, although by entering the breakdown some distance in front of the hindmost foot he definitely impacted the speed of South Africa’s next possession.

The revised protocol which came into effect on July 1st does not allow for TMO intervention here, since Wyn Jones was not guilty of foul play, there is not a knock-on involved and a try was not scored. As a result, Gardner’s “cynical hands from red no.19” explanation was inaccurate, but had a TV replay been available to the officials the outcome may well have been the same but for a different reason.

TMO Intervention
Perhaps keen to remind the viewers that he hadn’t dozed off, New Zealand official Brett Cronan stopped play at the end of a dull first quarter to tell Gardner he should: “Check a potential high tackle against red no.2”


Cue a reverse angle replay which showed a perfectly good tackle during which Ryan Elias made an attempt to wrap with his left arm.

After a pregnant pause Cronan advised: “Angus, there’s no clear head on head contact mate, Play on.”

Quite why he stopped the game is a mystery to all of us, including Mr Gardner!

The Big Call
With Josh Adams’ converted try giving Wales a slender advantage, when South Africa restarted with the clock showing 79.15 securing possession was critical to the outcome of the match.

Many Welsh fans will therefore have had their hearts in their mouths as George North knocked on and the ball struck Adam Beard’s foot before the home side’s chasers were also unable to gather it.

On the commentary box Bryan Habana started to question whether Beard was offside before Gardner awarded a scrum. Had the Springboks won a penalty, a kick of around 40 metres would have stolen the match, but it would have been an extremely harsh call. While Beard was in front of the knock-on, he had no idea that the ball had gently rolled against his foot, and made no attempt to prevent South Africa from regathering it. He was accidentally offside, which means the ensuing scrum was the correct decision.


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