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The Nigel Owens verdict on controversial Cheslin Kolbe yellow card

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Former Test referee Nigel Owens has shared his thoughts on one of last weekend’s hottest Autumn Nations Series topics, the yellow-carding of Cheslin Kolbe in the 19-16 defeat for the Springboks in Dublin. It was during the first half when the experienced South African, who was starting his first Test wearing the No15 full-back jersey, found himself as the major culprit in the 16th-minute double tackle with teammate Pieter-Steph du Toit that unceremoniously upended Ireland winger Mack Hansen.

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Match referee Nika Amashukeli reviewed the footage on the big screen at Aviva Stadium before deciding to only yellow card Kolbe for an offence that numerous rugby fans claimed on social media was a stonewall red card.

Owens is now back presenting his popular Whistle Watch series for the duration of the Autumn Nations Series and the Kolbe decision was reviewed during the latest ten-minute episode of the popular YouTube series.

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Unlike the fans were clamoured for Kolbe to be red-carded and leave the Springboks reduced to 14 players for 64 minutes of the Test match, Owens believed that Amashukeli, an up-and-coming inexperienced Georgian referee at Test level, got this particular decision correct to only yellow card the South African.

“Now then, one that got you all talking and asking the question out there, the Cheslin Kolbe yellow card in the Ireland-South Africa game in Dublin,” said Owens, beginning the review section that also commented on two foul play decisions in the Black Ferns-France women’s World Cup semi-final and another from the USA men’s World Cup qualifier in Dubai.

“You have two players involved in this so there comes a little bit of mitigation in it because it is another player making a tackle as well. That can change the dynamics of the tackle. But here Kolbe clearly does lift the player above the horizontal and turns him and the key thing here, he doesn’t make an effort to bring him back down safely.

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“So the referee is looking at this and saying, ‘I am looking at a yellow card here because the player does land a little bit safer than he would have done on his neck and his head’, so when you listen to how the referee is reviewing this, you were sitting there and going, ‘Okay, I can understand that and I can follow that and I can accept that’. So, in this instance, the referee calls it, sees it and makes the decision – so it’s a correct yellow card.”

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