WELLINGTON (AFP) – The International Rugby Board Monday said referee Romain Poite was wrong to issue the first yellow card to Springbok Bismarck du Plessis during a crunch match against the All Blacks over the weekend.
New Zealand won the top-of-the-table Rugby Championship clash 29-15 in Auckland on Saturday after the South African hard-man was automatically red-carded following a second yellow card offence for using his elbow in a tackle.
The win put the All Blacks four points clear of the previously unbeaten Springboks with two matches to play in the championship.
"Following an initial review, the IRB confirms that it was incorrect for referee Romain Poite to issue a yellow card to Bismarck du Plessis in the 17th minute of the Rugby Championship match," the sport's governing body said in a statement.
"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 Springbok hooker's dismissal early in the second half reduced the South Africans to 14 men and denied them their most influential forward for the remainder of of the match.
All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter, who injured his shoulder in the crunching tackle, will be sidelined for up to six weeks, ruling him out of the rest of the competition.
Although the Springboks refused to debate the yellow card after the match, Carter tweeted that he felt the tackle was fair, and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said du Plessis was "unlucky" with the ruling.
However, Hansen believed the second offence -- an elbow to the throat of All Blacks flanker Liam Messam -- could easily have been a red card.
Du Plessis is to appear before a judicial hearing on Tuesday.