Argentina were poor, very poor against South Africa. The forwards had neither the collective maturity nor the organisation to oppose the Springboks rolling maul, once a traditional area of Pumas’ strength. They missed the experience of Hernandez at 10 as the half backs lost their way. But once again they got the fuzzy end of the lollipop from rugby’s whole judicial process.
There are a number of things that I, and I would imagine the Pumas’ management, would like to have explained to them. Why, in the early moments of the game, was Bryan Habana not yellow carded for taking out Hernandez in the air. Camacho did the same thing to Habana a few minutes later and again no action was taken.Why was Jannie du Plessis not sent off and cited for a forearm smash into the face of an Argentinian forward. He was penalised for coming in at the side of the ruck, yet this was almost precisely the same act that caused such outrage when Dean Greyling did it to Richie McCaw in this Championship a year ago. When it comes to victims, it seems there is one law for the “big five rugby nations” and quite another for Argentina. Why was Francois Louw not at least yellow carded and subsequently cited for repeatedly stamping on a Puma who was holding onto the leg of the Springbok flanker. And why was Duane Vermeulen not penalised for leading into the tackle with a forearm.
It is possible to have sympathy for referee Chris Pollock. His confidence at this level is gone, just as players can go through phases of their career when they lose their way. And the lack of assistance that Pollock received from his misnamed assistant referees was shocking. The Pumas have not protested as far as I know, they are too grateful to be included at this level, and so it is up to others to make sure they are fairly treated.
The Pumas might wonder how one Springbok try from a rolling maul was allowed to stand when Tendai Mtawarira, the Beast himself, had splintered off from the body of the maul, and was clearing out Argentinian players well ahead of his teammates. The Beast was like a police outrider protecting a head of state. And why was Fourie du Preez – and just how brilliant was the scrum-half’s distribution when he came on; how the world and South Africa have missed his talents – allowed to pick up a ball from a grotesquely offside position and saunter over the try line.
Argentina were abject and we must hope for some pride this weekend. But I am so tired of there being one set of laws for the ‘big five’ and quite another set of laws for the rest. But when refereeing appointments and a man’s career are largely controlled by the big five, is it any wonder that the man in the middle (and those on the sideline) tend to favour the powers that be, now and forever, amen.