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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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finn 5 hours ago
Mick Cleary: 'England fans are entitled to be grumpy and weary'

“no stand-out talent that would trouble the selectors of a world XV. Until that status changes, then they will be confined to this mid-table (at best) mediocrity.” I really think this is nonsense analysis. Finn Russell isn’t better than George Ford. Jamie George is the third best hooker in the world after Marx and Sheehan. Ben Earl would probably start for any team in the world bar Ireland, and the same goes for Ollie Lawrence when he’s in form. The problem England have is (1) people hate their style of play, so will always overlook players like Ford and George when comparing them with more flashy alternatives; (2) that people expect England to be one of the best teams in the world, so when they fall short it is held against them. Finn Russell has far more poor games than George Ford, but because Scotland aren’t expected to be consistently winning trophies it isn’t a scandal when he does play badly. Conversely if Ben Earl was playing for scotland, or wales, or italy, everyone would be blown away by his performances, but because he’s only playing slightly better than we expect english back row players to play then he’s not given the plaudits he arguably deserves. I say “arguably” because ultimately I don’t think it matters whether we value individual players accurately or not. I’m not aggrieved that english players don’t get selected in world XVs, I just don’t think its a good explanation of a nation’s performances!

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