The International Rugby Board has confirmed that French referee Romain Poite was wrong in his decision to give Bismarck du Plessis his first yellow card in the Test between the All Blacks and Springboks at Eden Park on Saturday.
Du Plessis received two yellow cards and was sent from the field in the 42nd minute, making the Boks play with 14 men for almost 50 minutes in the game, with New Zealand eventually winning 29-15.
The decision effectivelty ended the Test as a contest and it even elicited sympathy from victim Dan Carter, who thought it had been a fair hit, albeit one that has taken him out of the game for six weeks with a grade 3 AC shoulder injury.
The IRB today issued a statement in which they admitted that it was incorrect for Poite to issue the first yellow card to Du Plessis.
"Just as players and coaches make mistakes, the decision was an unfortunate case of human error by the match officials, who, having reviewed the match, fully recognise and accept that they made a mistake in the application of law," the statement said.
"All match official performances are thoroughly reviewed and assessed by the IRB and are considered when appointments are made for future test matches."
The South African Rugby Union has laid a complaint with both SANZAR and the IRB about Poite's performance.
Poite was muzzled by the IRB after the game, as he needs to testify in the disciplinary hearing for Du Plessis. Requests to talk to the referee were denied after the game as well.
Du Plessis will face a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday - an automatic result of his receiving a red card - and will hope that, given the IRB's statement, there will be no further sanction imposed on him.
SANZAR confirmed the hearing in a release they sent out yesterday. The hearing, to be heard by judicial officer Terry Willis, will be held by video conference tomorrow.
The second yellow card, where Du Plessis' elbow struck Liam Messam in the throat area, may be looked again in the hearing after All Blacks coach Steve Hansen's said that it could have been red.
"Otherwise you're going to get people having cheap shots, and then if you put them on report later they've done the damage haven't they," said Hansen. "It's a deterrent."
Hansen felt Poite had had a good game apart from his one mistake, and called for people to look beyond the officiating when reflecting on a passionate and highly physical encounter in which both teams took each other's best shots.
Veteran All Blacks midfielder Conrad Smith agreed with his coach's view, admitting things had gotten a little surreal in the second half when Poite also dished out late yellow cards to All Blacks Kieran Read and Ma'a Nonu.
"The alternative is to let those things go unpunished," said Smith yesterday. "There will be debate around whether he deserved the first yellow - I'm not going to enter that - but the fact is if guys deserve two yellows then they probably should get sent off. You've got to have those measures to deal with it during a game."
- With Fairfax