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Boks fans and even a former player go after Luke Pearce in wake of loss

By Ian Cameron
Referee Luke Pearce talks to Siya Kolisi of the Springboks during the Rugby Championship match between the South Africa Springboks and the Australian Wallabies at Cbus Super Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

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Despite what many neutrals saw as an exceptional refereeing performance – Springboks fans and even a former player have gone after Luke Pearce in the wake of their shock defeat to the All Blacks in Johannesburg on Saturday.

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Ian Foster’s New Zealand ran out 35-23 victors over the Boks in the second of their two games on South African soil.

It’s a win that few predicted after a display of dominance from the hosts a week earlier and it hasn’t gone down well with SA fans – who have sought to scapegoat Pearce for the loss.

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Even former Springboks were getting in on the act, with Breyton Paulse posting: “The Boks certainly didnt deserve to win tonight but the ref made some really bad calls at critical times that took our oemf away, not good at all!!”

Dylan Jack wrote: “Luke Pearce yellow carded Willemse for a first cynical infringement. Now he’s giving warnings to the All Blacks for cynically collapsing the Bok maul.”

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And there were plenty more in that vein:

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The complaints from South African fans were in stark contrast to neutrals, who widely lauded a superb performance from the Gallagher Premiership whistler.

RugbyPass’ Ben Smith wryly noted: “I, for one, am disappointed Luke Pearce missed 25 tackles out there on the field. Someone, somewhere, should do something about that.”

Respected Australian journalist Christy Doran noted: “Luke Pearce’s officiating of last night’s Springboks- All Blacks Test was superb. Well done. Clear, concise and wanting the game to be played at speed. Great Test. The Rugby Championship is alive. Great drama about this year’s tournament.”

Journalist Steffan Thomas wrote: “I personally thought Luke Pearce was flawless. Can’t think of a single decision he got wrong. Top class performance.”

Squidge Rugby observed how Pearce – like Nigel Owens before him – is nearly always involved in exceptionally good matches: “If you’re ever trying to figure out which fixtures will be absolute bangers, it’s easier to just search for matches Luke Pearce is refereeing than check which teams are playing.”

South African journalist Brendan Nel wrote that: “I didn’t have an issue with Luke Pearce’s reffing. I may have disagreed with a few decisions, but nothing major. Telling point was the obstruction – we didn’t have a great angle on the big screen, so want to watch that again before commenting” and later “Sorry, won’t jump on the bash the ref bandwagon. Definitely didn’t get the rub of the green but the Boks lost 4 lineouts on their own throw, they were poor defensively. The bomb squad backfired through injury and we were left with just one option for the aerial battle.”

Newcastle Falcons media manager Mark Smith Tweeted that Pearce’s performance was top draw: “Man of the match: Luke Pearce. Refereeing masterclass.”

Former Northampton Saints’ lock and now head of player affairs at the RPA Christian Day observed: “Enjoyed that first half. NZ looking a lot more like the All Blacks. SA back into it though just before HT and looking like they have solidified the set piece with an early change or two. Luke Pearce communicates very well and keeping the pace of game high.”

Pearce – at just 34 – is widely seen as one of the best referees in the world, and his performance in Ellis Park yesterday will only further that reputation, despite what some South African fans might say.

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