British and Irish Lions: Sky Sports pundits on the TMO and referee calls from the first Test against South Africa
Former South Africa internationals Bobby Skinstad and Jean de Villiers, and ex-Lions Jamie Roberts and Simon Zebo give their views on the big calls by the match officials in Saturday's 22-17 win for the tourists in Cape Town
By Sky Sports Rugby Union
Last Updated: 25/07/21 9:04pm
The British and Irish Lions took a 1-0 lead in the Test series against South Africa with a 22-17 victory over the Springboks in Cape Town on Saturday evening.
There were plenty of talking points to come out of the match, not least some of the decisions the match officials had to make during the contest around tries and possible cards.
Former Springboks Bobby Skinstad and Jean de Villiers, and ex-Lions Jamie Roberts and Simon Zebo cast their expert eye over those calls for Sky Sports…
Lions come back to beat Boks and go 1-0 up in series
The British and Irish Lions mounted a brilliant second-half comeback to beat South Africa 22-17 and go 1-0 up in the three-Test series.
Try or no try?
One of the big talking points in the build-up to the first Test had been the appointment of South African referee Marius Jonker as the television match official, but some of his biggest calls in the match went against the Springboks.
He was asked to adjudicate on two possible tries from Willie le Roux and Damian de Allende in the second half, and while there was no doubt the latter was correctly chalked off due to a knock-on by Cheslin Kolbe in the build-up there was some debate over the former - which on-field official Nic Berry had initially sent up as a try.
Speaking on Sky Sports' coverage of the match on Saturday, former international referee Nigel Owens concurred with Jonker's decision that there was a 'clear and obvious' reason to disallow le Roux's score for being offside from a kick by Lukhanyo Am.
South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber had no complaints at full-time either but former Springboks captain Skinstadt felt it was not that clear-cut, even though he was happy to accept the TMO's decision.
"We've obviously got a different definition of clear and obvious, because he's got to be able to say it's definitely offside," Skinstad said on The Lions Breakfast Show.
"But there is no line on Marius Jonker's desk and if he's saying his eyes perceive that as offside then that's fine, it's not a try - I'm not trying to make tries out of things that aren't tries.
"As Lukhanyo has got the ball he's (le Roux) going 'kick it, kick it, kick it', but to be honest if he's saying that then make sure you're behind him when he kicks it ahead."
World Cup-winning former Springboks back De Villiers was full of praise for how Jonker carried out his duties in the match and felt it would have been just as debatable if his compatriot had awarded Le Roux's try.
"I think Marius Jonker was the TMO because he's the best in that at the moment in World Rugby, and the decisions he made were the right decisions," De Villiers told Sky Sports reporter Sarra Elgan.
"It was so marginal and especially with the Willie le Roux try, if it was allowed it would have been debatable and the fact it was disallowed is debatable as well, in a way. But, in the end, I think it was the correct decision.
"I don't think Warren Gatland had an influence on him and he made a decision on what he could see in front of him. I think we're happy to move on and say the result was the right one, and the decisions made in the game didn't influence the result."
Watson lucky not to see red?
One decision which went the Lions' way was the decision of on-field referee Nic Berry to only give a penalty against Hamish Watson for a dangerous tackle on Le Roux rather than opt to issue a card as well.
Given how stricter officials have been with dangerous tackles in recent years, some were surprised the Scotland back row was not shown either a yellow or red card and Skinstad was among them.
"If this was a Premiership semi-final or final, that's a red card if not a yellow card," Skinstad said. "There is absolutely no way that's a penalty only.
"I don't think the intent here is to break Willie le Roux's neck, it's to drive him back and make a good tackle, but Watson has had a sort of a brain explosion there because he doesn't need to do that."
Former Lions and Wales international Roberts was in agreement with Skinstad, expressing his concern over what could be seen as inconsistencies around what constitutes just a penalty or further sanction.
"It's that inconsistency for players and supporters that frustrates people," Roberts said. "As Bob rightly said, that is a yellow card if not a red because Watson has actually put energy down on Willie Le Roux."
Another former Lion, Simon Zebo, believes the Springboks will take confidence going into the second Test in Cape Town on July 31 knowing it could well have turned out differently for them if those calls had favoured them.
"I don't know how that Hamish Watson tackle wasn't a card," Zebo said. "I'm obviously going for the Lions and wanted them to win, but the Springboks can certainly feel aggrieved there.
"And the Willie le Roux try, you've got to feel they had the luck there. I think the South Africans will be going into the second Test feeling confident that if they had a couple of calls go their way, you could be looking at a different result."