All Blacks dealt a hard hand
Though gracious in the spirit of c'est la vie after his team's tantalisingly close 12-11 defeat to their arch rival Springboks, All Blacks coach Ian Foster did later bemoan how the cards were dealt in Saturday's Rugby World Cup final at the Stade de France.
Foster was initially loath to be drawn on two flashpoint moments involving captains Sam Cane and Siya Kolisi but eventually he said what was on his mind.
“I don't want us to be talking about red cards. It is what it is. There will be a plenty of time to analyse that,” Foster said about the 28th-minute yellow card that was upgraded to red in the 34th for Cane.
“There was an attempt to wrap. There didn't seem to be a lot of force in the contact.”
Foster thought a tougher sanction was perhaps appropriate for Kolisi who made head contact when he clattered into Ardie Savea in the second half.
“The hit on Ardie had a lot of force going into that contact and a direct contact on the head so the game has got a few issues it's got to sort out. That's not sour grapes. There were two different situations with different variables and one was a red card, one was a yellow. That's the game.”
Foster said he didn't feel his team got the rub of the green in the first half and had to make their own luck.
There were many contentious moments but unflappable referee Wayne Barnes, kept a firm grip on proceedings. The number of TMO interventions, however, some Kiwis found disconcerting.
“[It's] probably for the game to decide at some point. It's not tonight. We got the same behaviour from that TMO that we got in the Irish series last year, same TMO. So we expected what we got,” Foster said somewhat cryptically. New Zealand lost that series against Ireland 2-1 with England's Tom Foley in the hot seat.
Naturally, Cane found the moment tough.
“Just so much hurt right now,” the captain said. “It’s actually hard to find words to explain it.
“It’s so, so hard. I’m feeling so much hurt, but I am so proud of the group the way they fought back and gave ourselves a shot of winning that game. It speaks volumes for the group as a whole.”
Foster, too, expressed his admiration for the way in which the All Blacks responded to the adversity. The moments of contention and the rain all contributed to the spectacle.
They stretched the Bok defence and Bongi Mbonambi's early departure gave them a spring in their step at the line-out.
Though they were a man down for most of the game, they threw everything at the Boks.
“Heck of a final. I want to congratulate South Africa for what they've achieved,” said Foster. “They've shown a lot of character and tenacity throughout this tournament. That's three close games they have come out the right side so they are doing something right.
“For us it's heartbreaking. Overall, incredibly proud of our team but we've got a disappointed shed.”
Foster acknowledged the tough road the Boks had to walk to the title. They played all five of the other teams in the world rankings' top six.
He conceded the Boks are hard to beat. “They know their game. They are strong and experienced. They fight in dark places. They have tenacity and the ability to play game at their pace.”
Foster will leave the job with former Crusaders coach Scott Robertson set to take over.
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