The Rugby Championship

Australia coach Michael Cheika slams ref, then denies Folau pulls a Springbok’s hair

Fly half Elton Jantjies misses a last-minute penalty as South Africa and Australia draw 27-27, following on from their 23-23 stalemate in Perth

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 October, 2017, 11:28am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 October, 2017, 11:28am

Australia coach Michael Cheika denied one of his players pulled a South African player’s hair and criticised several refereeing decisions following a 27-27 draw against the Springboks in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

“He’s only starting out in tier-one matches,” Cheika said, referring to New Zealand match official Ben O’Keeffe.

“But there were some forward passes, knock-ons (missed) ... these are key moments,” said Cheika. “But he’s a very good ref with an excellent temperament and he’s going to go a long way.”

Cheika also forcefully denied that Israel Folau intentionally pulled the hair of Springbok Dillyn Leyds – an offence that saw the hosts awarded a penalty.

“He grabbed the guy around the collar ... watch the vision, he got him by the collar, he didn’t grab his hair.

“No one tackles somebody by the hair,” said Cheika, who became agitated when he was pressed about the incident.

It caused Leyds to grimace in pain and fall to the pitch.

No card was shown to the Australian full-back, but the penalty was given against the tourists after a brief fracas off the pitch between the sides.

“It was 100 per cent the hair – he actually pulled me by the hair twice,” insisted Leyds after the match, making a claim backed by video evidence.

Cheika acknowledged Australia have a bleak record at South Africa’s Highveld stadiums – those in Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and Pretoria are 1,500 metres above sea level.

“They obviously came with a strategy to run us out of puff on the Highveld,” said Cheika.

“I just thought it probably came down to a couple of bits and pieces. It was emotionally different to the draw in Perth.

“Obviously, playing away from home it (a draw) is a little bit better. “(Australians) would have appreciated the courage that we showed.”

The result was Australia’s second deadlock against South Africa during the 2017 Rugby Championship following their 23-23 stalemate in Perth on September 9.

Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper said: “(You) cannot split us this year, two draws, you know. I am sure both teams are extremely frustrated.”

South Africa coach Allister Coetzee said the draw showed the Springboks had turned around their form after a record defeat by the All Blacks two weeks ago.

“We’ve been through a hell of an emotional week – we’ve turned it around,” he said.

“I know we have to win, we must win ... (but) this team is playing with width. (I am) very pleased and positive.”

The result will be a welcome tonic for Coetzee after the dismal showing against the All Blacks, who humbled the Springboks 57-0 in Auckland.