Outspoken Australian pundit Phil Kearns has branded the decision to yellow card Wallaby prop Taniela Tupou following a ruck clearout as ‘disgraceful’.
The Wallabies fell to South Africa 35-17 in the opening clash of the 2019 Mitsubishi Estate Rugby Championship at Emirates Airlines Park in Johannesburg, but the 54th-minute decision to send off ‘Tongan Thor’ was what enraged Kearns.
It was a night where the Wallabies were left to rue missed opportunities, however, Tupou’s controversial yellow card proved a major turning point in the clash.
Trailing only by four after going into the dressing rooms 14-10 down after a tense opening half, the Wallabies were reduced to 14 men in the 54th minute after the giant prop was pulled up for a late cleanout at a ruck.
The Springboks capitalised by scoring twice in the ensuing 10 minutes, which set them on course for a convincing victory.
The yellow elicited a remarkable tirade from Kearns, who branded the match official as ‘out of his depth’.
“I just think it was a disgraceful decision,” Kearns said on Fox Sports. “So many times we put referees that are out of their depth into these games.
“We’ve all talked privately about the World Cup referees and there’s a whole bunch of guys there that are totally out of their depth.
“And big games like that — that is a game-changing moment…And some of these guys are out of their depth.”
The home side crossed first in the opening five minutes of the contest and never surrendered their lead for the rest of the night to extend their historic unbeaten record against the Wallabies at the venue.
Debutant Springboks half Herschel Janjties made the most of his opportunity in the number 9 jersey, scoring a try in each half, and while the Wallabies produced several opportunities in attack they were only able to take full advantage twice. Their first try came through Dane Haylett-Petty 11 minutes before the break, but they were unable to find the tryline again until the 72nd minute through Bernard Foley.
After looking like the better side for much of the first half despite some blown chances, in the end the Wallabies were outclassed by the hosts in what was an enthralling contest for most of the night.
Haylett-Petty’s 29th-minute try came off some slick hands off the back of a rolling maul, and the winger almost made it a double but for spilling the ball after chasing down a Nic White kick moments later.
It was Jantjies’ second try, sniping from the base of a ruck that proved the dagger blow for the Wallabies and extended South Africa’s lead to 18 points with as many minutes left to play. His replacement Cobus Reinach put the icing on the cake with a try right on the fulltime whistle.
The Wallabies will look to regroup ahead of their second match in the abbreviated 2019 series against Argentina at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday.
Qantas Wallabies 17 (Dane Haylett-Petty, Bernard Foley tries; Bernard Foley 2 cons; Bernard Foley pen) South Africa 35 (Herschel Jantjies 2, Lood De Jager, Sbu Nkosi, Cobus Reinach tries; Elton Jantjies 5 cons)
Andre Esterhuizen (South Africa) – 21 mins
Taniela Tupou (Qantas Wallabies) – 54 mins
1.James Slipper 2.Folau Fainga’a 3.Sekope Kepu 4.Izack Rodda 5.Rory Arnold 6.Lukhan Salakaia-Loto 7.Michael Hooper (c) 8.Isi Naisarani 9.Nic White 10.Bernard Foley 11.Reece Hodge 12.Samu Kerevi 13.Tevita Kuridrani 14.Dane Haylett-Petty 15.Tom Banks
Reserves: 16.Jordan Uelese 17.Harry Johnson-Holmes 18.Taniela Tupou 19.Rob Simmons 20.Jack Dempsey 21.Matt To’omua 22.Kurtley Beale
1.Tendai Mtawarira 2.Bongi Mbonambi 3.Trevor Nyakane 4.Eben Etzebeth (c) 5.Lood De Jager 6.Rynhardt Elstadt 7.Pieter-Steph Du Toit 8.Francois Louw 9.Herschel Jantjies 10.Elton Jantjies 11.Makazole Mapimpi 12.Andre Esterhuizen 13.Jesse Kriel 14.Sbu Nkosi 15.Warrick Gelant
Reserves: 16.Schalk Brits 17.Lizo Gqoboka 18.Vincent Koch 19.Marvin Orie 20.Marcell Coetzee 21.Cobus Reinach 22.Francois Steyn 23.Dillyn Leyds
47 mins – Tupou for Kepu, 49 mins – Johnson-Holmes for Slipper, 55 mins – Kepu for Naisarani, 58 mins – To’omua for Kuridrani, 58 mins – Beale for Banks, 58 mins – Simmons for Rodda, 65 mins – Uelese for Fainga’a, 65 mins – Genia for White, 65 mins – Dempsey for Kepu, 68 mins – Fainga’a for Uelese
WALLABIES MATCH NOTES
Isi Naisarani Test debut – Wallaby #926
Harry Johnson-Holmes Test debut – Wallaby #927
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