5 Reasons France are upset with the referee in their Rugby World Cup defeat to South Africa

The French rugby team and its supporters were upset with the refereeing during their Rugby World Cup defeat to South Africa. The grievances largely revolved around decisions made by referee Ben O’Keeffe. Here are five highlighted mistakes as reported by various sources:

  1. Early Charge on Conversion Attempt:
    • Cheslin Kolbe of South Africa charged down Thomas Ramos’ conversion attempt after France’s second try. The review by World Rugby revealed that Kolbe started his charge too early, and Ramos should have been allowed to re-take the conversion​1​.
  2. Missed Head-on-Head Collision Penalty:
    • An incident involving Pieter-Steph du Toit and Jonathan Danty was overlooked by the referee. Du Toit had a head-on-head collision with Danty after the latter had been penalized for going off his feet at a breakdown. The review stated that Du Toit should have been penalized and yellow-carded for this incident​1​.
  3. Incorrect Penalty Award Late in the Game:
    • Late in the second half, Springbok flanker Kwagga Smith won a penalty at the breakdown which Handre Pollard converted to put South Africa ahead. However, the review states that France should have been awarded the penalty instead, as Smith was not supporting his body weight when competing for the ball​1​.
  4. Missed Yellow Card for Dangerous Tackle:
    • Damian Penaud, a French winger, should have been yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle on Eben Etzebeth in the ninth minute. The incident occurred after South Africa’s first try, when Etzebeth fielded the restart and Penaud tackled him around the head​1​.
  5. Incorrect Offside Judgment:
    • In the latter stages of the match, Cameron Woki was judged to have been offside, preventing Faf de Klerk from passing to Pollard, who was in position for a potential drop goal. However, the review stated that Woki was not offside and O’Keeffe incorrectly awarded France the scrum​1​.

Additionally, there was a contentious moment early in the game when a potential penalty try was not awarded to France. South African lock Eben Etzebeth swatted at a ball near the tryline, and referee O’Keeffe ruled the ball had been deflected backwards instead of awarding a penalty to France. This decision was seen as pivotal as it kept the scores level, changing the potential game dynamics significantly from a possible 14-0 to 7-7 in a short span​2​.

The overall sentiment from the French side was very critical towards the referee’s performance, with France’s captain Antoine Dupont expressing his dissatisfaction publicly, stating he was not sure the refereeing was up to the challenge