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The Rugby Championship
Du Plessis leaps to defence of under-fire Poite
ESPN Staff
September 20, 2013
Referee Romain Poite shows South Africa's Bismarck du Plessis a yellow card, New Zealand v South Africa, The Rugby Championship, Freedom Cup, Eden Park, Auckland, September 14, 2013
Referee Romain Poite shows Bismarck de Plessis a yellow card during the Springboks' clash with the All Blacks last weekend © Getty Images
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South Africa's Bismarck du Plessis has attempted to draw a line under the furore that followed his incorrect sending-off during his side's defeat to New Zealand in their Rugby Championship clash in Auckland last weekend by coming to the defence of referee Romain Poite.

The under-fire official sin-binned Du Plessis in the first half of the All Blacks' 29-15 victory over the Springboks at Eden Park although replays showed little wrong with the tackle and Carter himself had no complaints despite suffering a shoulder injury that is set to rule him out of action for six weeks.

The incident was referred to the Television Match Official George Ayoub but he failed to provide Poite with sufficient evidence to sway his opinion of what he saw as a dangerous tackle and the hooker was subsequently sin-binned.

Du Plessis returned to the action and crossed for a try but his game was brought to an abrupt halt when he was rightly handed a second yellow card - and therefore a red - for an elbow to the throat of New Zealand flanker Liam Messam as he charged into the All Blacks' defence in the opening moments of the second half.

Poite was subjected to widespread abuse following the game with South Africa fans incensed by his performance and the International Rugby Board took the unprecedented step of admitting an error had been made. But Du Plessis insists he bears no grudges and has urged fans to go easy on the French referee.

"I have no hard feelings and bear no grudges," Du Plessis told The Star. "The reaction of world rugby has been extensive and with so much emotions being part of the game and part of being a rugby spectator it is understandable. It needs to be mentioned though that I am in no position to criticise anyone.

"I do not expect an apology. I have no doubt that Mr Poite had no ill intentions towards the Springboks or me. It must have been a great occasion for him to have been awarded a Test match viewed as arguably the greatest clash in world rugby. The commentary in the media must have an immense impact on him. I feel sorry for him and I do not want him to be banished from the rugby fraternity or to be viewed as a 'villain'. I bear no grudges against him and I have no doubt that he tried his best out there on the field."

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