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'Was the TMO in the toilet?': Legality of Eben Etzebeth's try under question

By Sam Smith
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: Eben Etzebeth of South Africa goes over to score their side's second try during the Autumn International match between England and South Africa at Twickenham Stadium on November 26, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth scored a crucial try for South Africa against England but the legality of his actions have come under the spotlight after a failure to review the try.


A pivotal error by England lock Johnny Hill reversed a penalty in England’s favour, giving the visitors the chance to attack straight after the restart after an Owen Farrell penalty narrowed the gap to 17-6.

After pounding England’s line, the ball spilled out of the ruck after a contest by Maro Itoje. His rival lock Etzebeth scooped up the ball and dived over to score under the posts.

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Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk kicked the conversion in swift fashion before any replays were looked at, glossing over how the ball was played by Etzebeth.

Former England flyhalf Andy Goode called out the incident on Twitter, joking that “Eddie Jones is currently making a Rassie video” after footage showed Etzebeth taking possession while still on the ground.

“It’s either the knock on or a penalty for playing the ball on the floor. Was the TMO in the toilet or the biscuit tin at that point?!” wrote Goode.


Many other Twitter users spotted the illegality of Etzebeth playing the ball from the ground.

The Springbok lock had flown off his feet trying to clean out originally and was still on the floor when the ball came his way.

Another user called it “shambles” after picking up the ball after a potential knock on from Faf de Klerk.


Etzebeth’s score was the second try of the match by the Springboks that came under the spotlight after suggests of an obstruction in the lead up to Kurt-Lee Arendse’s try.

The luck flowed the Springboks way in the week after Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus was banned for two matches after posting on social media about calls that went against South Africa in their losses to Ireland and France.

Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber hailed it a ‘very special’ occasion after winning at Twickenham for the first time, and ending a losing run that extended back to 2014.

“We’ve had a couple of special results as a team, but this was the first win for Siya and I at Twickenham, so it’s very special to us,” said head coach Jacques Nienaber.

“The forwards were outstanding and created a good platform for our backs to attack, so all-in-all, it was a fantastic team effort.”

Captain Siya Kolisi was equally delighted to get the result for a ‘special’ group of players.

“Sometimes we take it for granted what a special environment one is in and the great coaching team we have,” said Kolisi.

“When we got together with most of this coaching team in 2018, we all bought into the plans and the synergy and the way we work together is really special in this group.”


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Dave 598 days ago

Eben's try should have been disallowed, but there is no way on God's green earth that Steward is making that tackle on Willemse, regardless of where Arendse is.

Gregory 599 days ago

Good to see that bad reffing calls affect other sets of fans around the world and it is not just a South African thing.

Godfrey 599 days ago

On the Slade try, I like the tradition in football where when a member of the opposition is down with an injury. you boot the ball out, stopping play. I guess thats why its called the "beautiful game" and if rugby were to adopt this it would be utopian but beautiful like the way the Irish supporters respect the kicker even when he is the opposition.

Godfrey 599 days ago

Sam Smith your article detracts from what is normally a useful site to go to for facts. What we have here is a bunch of unsubstantiated assertions made by keyboard warriors blinded by their anger that their team lost. Focus on why England lost - the poor discipline amongst the forwards (eg. Hill).The under performing back line that took 72 minutes to eventually score a try against 13 men.

This article lends credence to 17 test Goode stoking up a furor and a bunch of assertions that will go unchallenged - Faf took the conversion quickly to avoid Etsebeth's try being turned over - yeah right! You take a conversion quickly from in front of the posts to avoid it been charged down. If he had taken his time the keyboard warriors would anyway be accusing him of time wasting and denying England their 19 minute one man advantage. Angus Gardner was awful "as usual" - mate, here in NZ he is highly regarded and he is not even one of "us" - he is from across the ditch!

Michael Röbbins (academic and writer extraordinair 599 days ago

Rich coming from human porta-potty Andy Gooooode who loved rubbing AU noses in Raynal the Ruiner’s decision in the Rugby Championship. Keep that same energy, twitter toes 🤣

Ninjin 599 days ago

EE had a knee on the ground so should not have been a try. I am a Bok supporter. The standard of officiating is very poor and has been for a long time now which begs the question.... are matches predetermined?

Flankly 599 days ago

The Etzebeth try should have been disallowed. Clearly and obviously a player on the ground (ie out if the game) intentionally playing the ball. It was also completely obvious that he was not on his feet. It was not a 50/50 call, and the ref/TMO plainly got it wrong. As relates to the England try: Player safety and fair contest should be top of mind in the case of disabling injury.

Greg 599 days ago

Ha, tell me you are a hypocrite without telling me.... South Africans have been telling you for weeks that the standard of refereeing needs to be addressed and most of you writers have just been calling them names. South Africans have told you it will eventually start costing you too although I don't England lost the game because of it.
So, are you prepared to start putting pressure on world rugby to improve the game for all of us or just write another article about how bad Rassie is?

Robbie 599 days ago

32-12, 27-13. Pick one 😂

Michael Röbbins (academic and writer extraordinair 599 days ago

Haha, how amazing after hearing the bigot moralizes from England all week preach against the demon Rassie the calamitous.

Also, only try that should have been disallowed was England’s, who shouldn’t have been able to tap and go with a player clearly down injured and later carted off right in front of the line. But take your kicks, and enjoy your in the end meaningless 15 v. 13 try.

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Jon 1 hours ago
British & Irish Lions free agent open to Super Rugby switch

There are a couple of teams who could use a stop gap experienced head. Blues - I’m not sure the Blues have signed a replacement for Caleb Tangitau (if he hasn’t been let go to make room for Barrett) yet, or whether Reiko is going on sabbatical and/or will remain in the squad. With exciting young French player Xavi Taele looking destined for higher honors in black, talented breakthrough rookie Cory Evan’s, and a couple of utilities, in AJ Lam and Bryce Heem(even Clarke?), all trying to learn the midfield trade, Williams could be a great aid. The Blues signed key English center Joe Marchant before he was raised to that level, and were possibly in the hunt to bring back the dependable Tele’a from the Highlanders. Possible the main squeeze which would put to bed any signing here would be the battle at 10 with Beauden’s return, and the forcing of Plummer back into the midfield. Hurricanes - Jordie Barrett is off to Leinster for a sabbatical next year but the more likely signing would be Billy’s brother back in the team. The Hurricanes are light on the outside with the loss of Salesi Rayasi to the Top 14 and if no quality is found to back up Kini Naholo, the midfield of Sullivan or Proctors could find themselves on the wing and space for a leader to show the Hurricanes three All Black midfield hopefuls (Higgins, Proctor, Umaga-Jensen) how its done. Highlanders - Rotation is high as usual at the Highlanders and versatility remains a strength with a lot of the squad. With compatriot Rhys Patchell signing a move to the JRLO, the passing of outside back Connor Garden-Bachop, and confirmed departure of Argentine wing Martin Bogado, the versatility of many of the young backups in the squad could see a veteran 12 like Williams being a strong partner for the robust Tele’a. With hope that the other Umaga-Jensen brother can force him out of the starting lineup, and shifting the sides general Sam Gilbert back into 10, the off-contract midfielder might seen as the perfect option for a squad still looking to fill one back spot.

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