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Video: Eben Etzebeth confronts Allan Alaalatoa in an angry bust-up

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Saturday’s Rugby Championship encounter in Sydney had a feisty denouement when a mass scuffle that had Eben Etzebeth and Allan Alaalatoa at its heart broke out in the aftermath of the result-confirming try scored by Makazole Mapimpi for the Springboks in the 71st minute.


With the scoreline 17-3 in his team’s favour, the South African winger held off three Wallabies players to touch down in the left-hand corner and his reaction after the grounding towards Marika Koroibete resulted in the ensuing brawl breaking out when other players joined.

The incident, which carried on at the perimeter wall with supporters within a hair’s breadth of the arguing players, appeared to be calming down only for it to flare up again behind the try line with Etzebeth and Alaalatoa going head-to-head against each other.

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With rival skippers Siya Kolisi and James Slipper both replaced in the match at that juncture, Etzebeth and Alaalatoa were the respective on-pitch Springboks and Wallabies captains and there was no love lost between the pair as both appeared at different stages of their coming together to put a hand on each other’s face during the bust-up.

Eventually, peace was restored and with the clock stopped on 71:01, here is how the officials came to their decision to award the try, yellow card Mapimpi, take no action against either Etzebeth and Alaalatoa, and eventually restart play following the Springboks conversion kick with a penalty to Australia on halfway:

Referee Ben O’Keeffe: Stay away, leave him go. Let him go, guys. Calm down. Everyone away. Let’s go. We’re going to check, guys… We are going to be looking at the try and we are going to be looking at any actions afterwards. Tual, you got a grounding?

Assistant referee Tual Trainini: For me the try is good but after the try is scored No11 Green (Mapimpi) put his hand on No11 Gold (Koroibete) on the ground and there is a mess and I just want to have a look because when No4 Green (Etzebeth) and No3 Gold (Alaalatoa) are facing they touch at the head.


O’Keeffe: Okay, onfield decision try. We will check the afters.

TMO Brendon Pickerill checked the ground of the try and he quickly gave it the all-clear before investigating the footage of what unfolded after the score.

Pickerill: You can award the try, now we are looking at the actions after.

The conversation between the officials became very faint on the audio at this stage before some clarity was eventually restored.

O’Keeffe: I have got a yellow card for Mapimpi, do we need to do anything further about those two players there?… I am still awarding the try and a yellow card 11 Green. Do you have anything else that you want to show us?


Pickerill: There is nothing else I need to show you. There is a lot of pushing and grabbing by multiple players from both teams. It is all started by the actions of 11 Green.

O’Keeffe: So yellow card against 11 Green. The try still stands because the action is always after the try is scored. Are you happy with that?

Pickerill: Yes.

Having reviewed the footage while standing near the Australian try line, referee O’Keeffe then ran towards halfway to pass on his decision to on-field Springboks skipper Etzebeth. He was chased up the field by Alaalatoa, who was told to wait as the official needed to address the South Africans first.

O’Keeffe: Let me explain. This is going to be a yellow card against 11. The try still stands because the action happened after the try. However, when he gets up and holds him on the ground, that starts everything else because of the actions of 11. The try still stands but it is a yellow card and we will restart with a penalty on halfway.

After the match restarted, Koroibete was shown on TV a few minutes later with blood coming from a cut to his mouth and the game ended with a consolation try from the Wallabies to leave the Springboks’ margin of victory at 24-8. It was their first win over the Wallabies in Australia since 2013.


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Rugbee McClaw 680 days ago


Joseph 681 days ago

I'd put my house on Eben vs Sony Bill Williams 10 times out of 10 in a street fight.

Drew 681 days ago

Nice attempted eye gouge from Alaalatoa hey ho

Drew 681 days ago

Jeez having taken so much flack for complaining about the ref its super amusing to hear the wallaby and Kiwi commentators spend the whole game bitching about the ref

Brian 681 days ago

I remember when Etzebeth tried that shit with the All Blacks until Sonny Bill got involved. Etzebeth backed down - wisely.

Chris 681 days ago

He gave the so called “best winger in the world” a pat on the chest after the attempted shoulder charge was foiled by going low and hard this time. After that theWallaby (we beat our own chests) ego’s burst and it was too much for them to handle. Eben simply had to put them in their place 🤣😂

GrahamVF 681 days ago

It was a game of rugby. Nothing in it. See you next year.

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Nickers 1 hours ago
'One of the poorest All Blacks performances I've seen in a long time'

Extreme hyperbole from Biggar. NZ have played far, far worse than that. The 20/21 team was by far the worst of the professional era. Losses to Argentina, shambolic game against Japan and hapless NH tour of 2021. But even that dreadful team were able to put 50 points on Wales and beat them by 38. Much easier to “tear them to pieces” from the commentary box apparently. Ignored by virtually everyone is how good the ABs defence was. That is why England didn’t win, they simply could not score enough points against that defence. The ABs attack was very average, but their defence was world class and that’s what won them the game. Any Wales team that Biggar has ever played for would have found themselves in the same situation and would definitely not have scored tries from those cross kicks. That ABs team beats Biggar’s best Wales team 31 - 13. England’s attack was as good as it was allowed to be by a superior defence. Hats off to Hansen, he has picked up where MacLeod finally got the ABs to last year and not missed a step. England’s attack will be a big worry for Borthwick. They have not established a reliable, repeatable way to break teams down and score points. They were held to some very low scores by average teams in the 6N, and again here didn’t cross 20 points on either occasion. If I was an England fan I would be crying out for a new attack coach. Borthwick would do well to cast his net now, a poor home winter with a faltering attack will start the calls for his job.

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Thomas 1 hours ago
'Champions get up when they can't': Matt Williams weighs in on Ireland's win over Boks

While both teams have their particular positives, I think neither team should rest on their laurels. South Africa managed to tie a series against an uncomfortable opponent, that has had their numbers for a couple of years, while trial-running a completely new attack system, that still doesn’t work properly. But one aspect of “it doesn’t work yet” is a transition from attack to defense in broken play, as the Boks leaked three tries in two matches this way, and lost the second match as a result. Ireland avoided a series loss in a hostile environment, and in spite of many key player injuries, while managing to significantly improve and tighten their defense in game 2 (which demonstrates the breadth of their squad as well as their ability to adjust and recalibrate). At the same time, their own attack hadn’t amounted to much, either (save from exploiting the gaps in the Boks’ new system, gaps that won’t be there anymore in a few months’ time), and they haven’t found an answer to the Boks scrum, which almost costed them the 2nd match, if it hadn’t been for pretty much unrepeatable Frawley heroics. In the end, there isn’t much that separates those two sides … which is exactly what we knew before the series already. Back to the drawing board for both teams, the work only just begins for two teams with the highest ambition. Start of a cycle alright.

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