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Grant Williams' first Springboks Test start lasts just 10 seconds

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Wikus de Wet/AFP via Getty Images)

Grant Williams’ first start as the Springboks No9 was dramatically ended on Saturday by a collision just 10 seconds into his team’s Rugby Championship match against Argentina in Johannesburg. The recently turned 27-year-old was named last Tuesday for his maiden run-on appearance for South Africa after three previous appearances off the replacements bench.


The scrum-half was one of nine changes to the Springboks XV made by head coach Jacques Nienaber following their round two 20-35 loss to New Zealand in Auckland. However, hopes that the Championship finale would provide South African fans with a good look at Williams ahead of the upcoming Rugby World Cup were dashed by an injury sustained in his first involvement in the match.

Argentina kicked off at Emirates Airlines Park and their start went deep into the 22 to where Williams was poised to gather. He caught the ball on the five-metre line, but his right-footed kick was blocked on 10 seconds by the charging Juan Cruz Mallia.

Video Spacer

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber on Grant Williams starting against Argentina

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Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber on Grant Williams starting against Argentina

The Argentine full-back, who was airborne at the time, caught Williams in the head with his follow through and after the play was stopped on 17 seconds following a South African infringement at a ruck, referee Andrew Brace decided that Mallia was committed to the collision after touching the ball and that foul play hadn’t taken place.

The knocked-out Williams was stretchered off, allowing Faf de Klerk, who had dropped to the bench to accommodate the Test rookie getting his first start, to come onto the field. This lack of game time for Williams will frustrate the Springboks given how highly coach Nienaber had spoken about him earlier in the week.

“Grant is on his third Test and his first start. It is our job to help him gain experience during the week to give him as much exposure of what he is going to get on Saturday so that he is happy and comfortable in the role that he has to fulfill; so that doesn’t have to think about it,” explained Nienaber after he had decided to start Williams.

“He can just bring out his natural talent and that makes him special. Yes, he has a role to fulfill, but there is also something that Grant brings to the table that makes him special, that is a Grant Williams thing.”


South Africa recovered from the early loss of Williams to lead 15-9 at the interval courtesy of tries from Eben Etzebeth and Damian de Allende, and they went on to win 22-21 to clinch a second-place finish in the tournament behind New Zealand.

Manie Libbok’s converted 69th-minute try stretched the hosts’ lead to 22-9 before de Allende’s yellow card was followed by late Argentina tries for Mateo Carreras and Gonzalo Bertranou.


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Byron 360 days ago

There is literally no way this is not a straight red! The debate on that framework is a different discussion, but to todays framework and how rugby has been reffed in the last few years that is straight red. Now this is an extremely vulnerble position for the kicker and impossible to protect oneself in the motion, while the defender doesnt need to heed any safety while flying in like a missile. Career ending challenge, disgusting this is not even mentioned in the article.

Frank 360 days ago

The inconsistent application of the rules is not rules. Rugby has become corrupt. Let me tell you guys here right now, France is going to win RWC 2023 of this I have no doubts AT ALL.

Flankly 361 days ago

Law 9.11: "Players must not do anything that is reckless or dangerous to others ..."

You can try to argue that Juan Cruz Mallia was not charging the kicker (Law 9.25), or more generally charging the player (Laws 9.15-9.17), but the ref should have evaluated the action in relation to 9.11. And the standards are about "reckless" or "dangerous", either of which would have merited a sanction.

In any case, irrespective of the wording, the spirit of the law is quite correctly that players have a responsibility for the safety of other players. If what the Puma #15 did was dangerous or reckless then it is at least a penalty. If the degree is serious then it's a yellow or red card. Hint: Jumping feet first towards someone's head is not safe, even if it is your butt that collides with them.

Btw, I thought that the refereeing was a mix of welcome attention to the offside line and sloppiness in areas like ruck binding and players off their feet. It was mostly OK, but the fact that the Williams incident was not even referred for review is a shocker.

Also, many of us were looking forward to seeing Grant Williams getting a good run, and a chance to earn a RWC spot. Faf played very well, and it may have favored the SA result for him to be on early, but I was sorry not to see that Grant/Libbok axis at work in a real test.

Richard John 361 days ago

Mallia, at full speed, launched himself high from a great distance,
knowing full well that there was NO way he could safely avoid hitting Williams.

This is extremely reckless and dangerous play. It could even be argued that his intention was to play the man.

A Red card and ban is justified.

Barry 361 days ago

Should have been straight red. Referees got that wrong and ignored player safety.

CO 361 days ago

Definitely a red card, surely should be cited for recklessly knocking someone out.

Schneider 361 days ago

If that happens to an Ireland or French player in WC 1/4 or semi- thats a straight red. Incredibly reckless challenge.

Connor 361 days ago

CJ Stander got a Red for that in 2018. That injury ruined Pat Lambie's career.

In an age when player safety is "supposedly" a priority of World Rugby, the fact that such an incredibly reckless and dangerous is not punished and even tacitly endorsed, is an outrage.

Chris 361 days ago

Frans Steyn made a charge down against NZ in 2022- penalty . Exact the same thing, but 10 times worse, completely different ruling.

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