It left Carter with a grade three shoulder injury, ruling him out of the rest of the Rugby Championship. However, contrary to the view of French referee Romain Poite, it was not illegal. Poite said the tackle was high. He also indicated Du Plessis didn’t use his arms.
This would have meant Du Plessis was in breach of International Rugby Board (IRB) rule 10.4 (e) on dangerous tackling.
According to this rule, a player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously. “A player must not tackle (or try to tackle) an opponent above the line of the shoulders even if the tackle starts below the line
of the shoulders. A tackle around the opponent’s
neck or head is dangerous play. A ‘stiff-arm tackle’ is dangerous play.” Yet television replays showed the tackle was not high, and that Du Plessis did in fact use his arms legitimately. Poite saw the replay, as did the television match official.
Both must know the decision to send off Du Plessis with a yellow card was unjust. While his second yellow may have been warranted, the compound effect, which put Du Plessis out of the game for about 49 minutes, was ruinous. It had huge financial implications for individuals and for national teams.
The Boks may not have won if Du Plessis had stayed on the field, but we’ll never know. Instead of an intriguing tussle between the world’s two best rugby teams, we were left with a one-sided contest. The IRB must ensure Poite never refs another Test.