The 2011 Rugby World Cup quarterfinal will forever go down in infamy as one of the great individual performances of all-time from Wallaby flanker David Pocock, who scuttled the Springbok breakdown with industrious endeavour that played spoiler on the day.
The Wallabies, after winning the Tri-Nations earlier that year and proving their mettle as a top team to beat at the World Cup, scraped a 11-9 win that sent the defending World Cup holders unceremoniously out of the tournament.
Pocock’s herculean effort wasn’t met with equal admiration & respect from Springbok fans, who instead turned their attention towards referee Bryce Lawrence. Aggrieved Springbok fans humiliated by the loss felt that Lawrence’s officiating, particularly at the ruck, aided Australia over their side.
After a blatant forward pass from centre De Villiers was called back costing the Springboks a try-scoring opportunity, the wrath towards Lawrence turned into conspiracy. Wild and unfounded allegations were thrown at Lawrence as Springbok fans reached for any conspiracy theory that would explain the loss.
Why has Referee boss, Paddy O'Brian, appointed fellow New Zealander, Bryce Lawrence, in SA/Aus game to determine S/F opponents against NZ?
— Willem van Zyl (@Wilwie) October 8, 2011
— Rams™ (@RegularRams) October 10, 2011
@QuadeCooper does bryce lawrence travel with the team or on his own aussie sponsored plane?
— socrates georgiades (@djsox) October 9, 2011
#brycelawrence Let's call 4 investigation into match fixing re this sod! Two games in a row he blew the favourites out of the game.
— Chris van der Heyde (@ChrisvdHeyde) October 9, 2011
As Lawrence was a New Zealander, some conspiracies felt that he had planned to gift the All Blacks a ‘preferred’ semi-final opponent in the Wallabies despite the fact the Wallabies had beaten the All Blacks a few months prior in Brisbane.
A full-strength All Blacks side had absolutely hammered South Africa 40-7 on New Zealand soil in the Tri-Nations in Wellington.
The Wallabies had also done a number on South Africa, sweeping them 2-0 home and away during the 2011 Tri-Nations, with the Springboks sole win coming at home against a second string All Blacks side in the last round. On form and results, the Wallabies were by all means logically the tougher semi-final opponent.
This was lost however as online petitions gained steam as Springbok fans launched campaigns to stop Bryce Lawrence from reffing again, which reached over 30,000 in just a few days after the match.
— James Edwards (@James1877) October 10, 2011
— Ryno Mey (@rynomey) October 10, 2011
Flip sakes, check out this for viral growth, 29,386 "likes" in one day and counting – Petition against Bryce Lawrence http://t.co/rlqiowwu
— Tyron Bache (@TyronBache) October 10, 2011
@BryanHabana i hope the SA Rugby Union is going to appeal and take legal action against Bryce Lawrence,honestly,he let u lose that match,
— Tavonga Manjonjo??? (@tavmanj) October 9, 2011
You can sign all the facebook petitions you like over Bryce Lawrence – fact is, the #bokke is in SA already and nothing is gona change that!
— Where’s Wally? (@thatwallace) October 10, 2011
Bryce Lawrence is blind in one eye, and that blind eye always seems to be facing the side AUS is playing from
— Darren Ashley Clarke (@DarrenAshClarke) October 10, 2011
— Mindy Pawsey (@MKPS001) October 9, 2011
So why is Bryce Lawrence trending in NZ for?? What did he do wrong??
— Lauren ?? (@Rugbynerd) October 10, 2011
Bryce Lawrence. Argh. You cost us. I hope you feel great!!
— Simone (@simisays22) October 9, 2011
“@dannicholl: Lots of nasty stuff about Bryce Lawrence; please give him a break. Poor man had his long-term guide dog put down Thursday.”
— Jené Schutte (@Jene18) October 10, 2011
Blaming Bryce LAwrence shows us up as a bunch of bad sports-we should be above that.
— David Wolpert (@DavidWolpertZA) October 9, 2011
I know this topic is getting old, but isn't SA blaming #BryceLawrence a bit like NZ blaming Suzie a few years back?
— Lynn Fothergill (@lynn_f) October 10, 2011
The anti-Lawrence rhetoric was aided by journalists stoking the fire with harsh criticism of the referee following the match. Mark Reason writing for The Daily Telegrath penned a scathing response.
“Lawrence made a complete hash of the game… and the Springboks will be furious,” he wrote without restrain.
“They identified the breakdowns as a key area before the game, but expected there would be some sort of reffing.
“The South Africans thought the tackler would have to release the ball-carrier. They thought the offside line would be respected. They thought that men would have to stay on their feet. It was a shambles.”
Scribe Brendan Gallagher wrote in a similar vein, saying that Lawrence had “horribly laissez faire control” of the breakdown which saw David Pocock “offend at will”.
The breakdown laws were a contentious sticking point for upset Springbok fans, agreeing with Gallagher and Reason that the Wallabies were able to get away with infringing in every way possible.
Banging a dead horse, but Bryce Lawrence's Refereeing Flowchart made me chuckle: pic.twitter.com/qcpAOUI8
— Grant McDermott (@grant_mcdermott) October 10, 2011
Outgoing Springbok captain John Smit was also not in the mood to pour water on the flames, delivering some parting shots as he talked to press after the game.
”Bryce is not difficult to communicate with, he just doesn’t seem to listen very well,” Smit told journalists.
“The one positive (of retirement) is that I won’t ever have to be reffed by him again.”
A different take on the game was made by Kiwi writer Hamish Bidwell, who opined that the Springboks tried to ambitiously play a game they do not have the skills to deliver, and that was ultimately their downfall.
“Rather than pummel the Wallabies into submission, South Africa shifted the ball virtually every opportunity,” he wrote for the Waikato Times.
“It was laudable stuff, just not especially effective.
“Opportunities were created, most notable Jean de Villiers putting Pat Lambie away for what should have been a brilliant try. Only the final transfer was forward, as if to demonstrate how much running and passing just aren’t part of their skillset.”
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