With all the debate and controversy over the decision-making in the first Test, there was huge pressure on the officials going into Saturday’s re-match in Cape Town.

So how did referee Ben O’Keeffe and his team deal with the key incidents during South Africa’s 27-9 victory over the Lions?

And what’s Nigel Owens’ verdict on whether or not they made the right calls?

Here’s the detailed analysis.

Incident No 1: Duhan van der Merwe yellow card

This was actually a pretty straightforward one for the officials.

As Cheslin Kolbe picked the ball up off the ground on 23 minutes, so opposing wing Duhan van der Merwe stuck out a foot and caught Kolbe’s leg, bringing him to the ground.

Referee Ben O’Keeffe’s initial reaction was: “I believe it’s a yellow, I just want to confirm that.”

Having checked the replays, the Kiwi said: “It’s clear his foot tripped him, he’s nowhere the ball, it’s not a kick.

“So it’s a yellow card. It’s foul play against the Lions player. He has tripped him.”

Commentating on Sky Sports, Nigel Owens concurred, saying: “That’s a fair call.

“He goes to kick the ball and he gets it wrong and he kicks the player accidentally. It is a yellow card. It’s a sensible decision.”

Owens went on to say Van der Merwe had been somewhat fortunate to avoid sanction earlier in the game when he had dumped Pieter-Steph du Toit on his back after the ball had gone, ultimately leading to the flanker’s injury-enforced departure.

“He is lucky the officials didn’t take a further look at that,” he said.

“He followed through and didn’t really need to because, as a tackler, you know the ball had gone there.

“It was a needless act and he was very fortunate that didn’t get looked at.”

Incident No 2: The Cheslin Kolbe yellow card

This was probably the biggest talking point to come out of the game.

Having been the victim a couple of minutes earlier, Kolbe was now the culprit, as he took Conor Murray out in the air, getting underneath the Lions scrum-half, colliding with him and sending him toppling to the deck from a height.

The reaction of Irish prop Tadgh Furlong said it all as he immediately put his hands to his head and turned in the direction of the referee.

So it was now over to the officials.

To start with, TMO Marius Jonker ruled there was no obstruction or blocking by a Lions player to unsight Kolbe. So, there was no mitigation there, with the Springboks winger having a clear run and line of sight.

Now it was down to O’Keeffe to decide the colour of the card.

Giving his verdict, the Kiwi said: “We have an act of foul play.

“We’ve got 14 coming in, he takes the player, who has won the space in the air.

“He makes contact dangerously and he (Murray) falls on his back. So it’s going to be a yellow card.”

There was no further explanation, but, as O’Keeffe sent Kolbe to the bin, Jonker chipped in, saying: “I agree with you.”

The one thing that struck you immediately was O’Keeffe’s description of Murray’s fall appeared to be wide of the mark, as the Ireland scrum-half actually landed on his chest after initially putting out his right arm to break his fall.

So what was the verdict from World Cup final referee Owens on the 25th minute incident?

Speaking on Sky Sports, he said: “If Murray hadn’t put his arms out, he would have landed on his shoulder and neck and that’s a straight red.

“Kolbe is very lucky. Murray has saved him here and that shouldn’t be part of the equation.

“If this would have happened 12, 18 months ago, it would have been a red card.

“If I was reffing this, I would be inclining more to a red than a yellow.”

The incident sparked a huge melee, which you can read about here.

Incident No 3: Robbie Henshaw “try” and Faf de Klerk tackle

Playing with an extra man, with Kolbe not yet back on the field, the Lions were going for a try and it looked as though they may have got it, with Conor Murray chipping over the top for Robbie Henshaw.

But the question for the officials was did Henshaw get the ball down? On top of that, was there an illegal hit by Faf de Klerk on Murray in the build-up?

As Nigel Owens said at the time: “This could be a long call.”

Robbie Henshaw scores a try that is disallowed after superb work by Siya Kolisi
Robbie Henshaw scores a try that is disallowed after superb work by Siya Kolisi

O’Keeffe gave an immediate sense of the direction of travel when he said: “The on-field decision is no try.

“I have seen it go forward before it is grounded over the goal-line.”

He then called on the services of his TMO, saying there was also a need to check on potential foul play in the lead-up.

After reviewing the footage, O’Keeffe declared: “There is no clear evidence to over-turn our on-field decision.

“We don’t have evidence of the ball being grounded and it’s knocked forward, so no try.”

He also confirmed the TMO had checked the De Klerk tackle and that there was no foul play.

However, there were some points for the Lions, with Dan Biggar slotting a penalty for another offence in the frenetic passage of play, a no arms tackle by hooker Bongi Mbonambi.

That made it 9-6 to the tourists at the break.

Incident No 4: Lukhanyo Am try

This was the 61st minute score that took the increasingly dominant Springboks clear.

From a line-out take by replacement lock Lood de Jager, they set a powerful driving maul in motion.

The Lions had no answer to it other than offending, with Owen Farrell coming in from the side.

With the referee playing advantage, scrum-half Faf de Klerk spotted there was no one sweeping for the visitors and put in a perfectly weighted grubber which Lukhanyo Am won the race to.

South Africa's Lukhanyo Am celebrates after scoring a try
South Africa's Lukhanyo Am celebrates after scoring a try

But the issue was did the centre get adequate downward pressure on the bouncing ball?

Crucially, Ben O’Keeffe’s on-field decision was try.

Then, after studying the footage, he opted to stick with that call.

“Because the ball is in the air, there’s just got to be contact with the palm for him to be in control,” he declared.

“He does that the whole way, there is no clear evidence of a separation and that he loses control, so we are going to stick with the try.

“The on-field decision stands.”

But, as with the Kolbe incident, Nigel Owens took a different viewpoint.

“This is a very, very tough decision to make,” he said.

“It comes down basically to the referee’s interpretation.

“If the ball is on the ground, as long as a player falls on it, from his hand to his neck to his waist, with downward pressure, it’s a try.

“But here I don’t think he’s in control of that, which means he loses it forward.

“This is a very, very close call.

“The key is that Ben O’Keeffe’s on-field decision is a try.

“The officials don’t have any evidence to overrule that decision. I can follow that, but I think that’s a tough call and South Africa were lucky to get that one.

“The evidence is pretty clear to me that he is not in control of that ball.

“The ball is off the ground. The hand comes down by the side of it.

“If the ground wasn’t there, he would have lost it forward.

“The referee has enough evidence to overrule it. To me, that is no try.”

But the score stood, with South Africa going on to win 27-9.

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