English hearts were crushed as Lawrence Dallaglio accused referee Ben O’Keeffe of favouring South Africa with a late penalty decision in the World Cup semi-finals.
The match tilted on the Springboks’ dominant front-row replacements, Ox Nche and Vincent Koch, who earned four second-half scrum penalties against Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler.
Nevertheless, England’s coach, Steve Borthwick, displayed sportsmanship in his assessment of the referee.
“I’m not going to be sitting talking about referees. I think we have a great standard of officiating at this tournament.
“I think Ben refereed well yesterday, and I think his whole team did a good job. I’ll concentrate on how I can make my team stronger.”
He added: “I really care deeply about English rugby and our supporters. There have been some tough times and we have work to do but you will see just how much those players care about representing their country.
“In any game like this you have to credit the opposition, who found a way to win at the end. South Africa are current world champions and world number ones for a reason.
“We thought we were going to win and came here believing we would win. The players deserve enormous credit for that.
“I think the tens of thousands of England fans watching here tonight and the millions watching at home will be very proud of their team.”
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Day jobs of the 2023 Rugby World Cup referee’s:
#1. Ben O’Keeffe
Nationality: New Zealand
Occupation: Eye Doctor
One of New Zealand’s six full-time referees, O’Keeffe is also a qualified doctor specialising in ophthalmology, which deals with eye health and disease.
Ben O’Keeffe facts:
O’Keeffe became an amateur referee for the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) in 2013 having started officiating in 2008 at the age of 19
He grew up in Blenheim, New Zealand and attended Marlborough Boys’ College where he was head boy in 2006.
O’Keeffe’s brother, Michael O’Keeffe, represented New Zealand at the 2012 London Olympics in football
Ben O’Keeffe toughest player to referee: Ma’a Nonu
O’Keeffe said: “I think like Ma’a Nonu, yeah he was pretty tough. I’ve noticed over the last few years that players are just a lot bigger, a lot faster and a lot stronger.
“I trained with the Highlanders pre-season one year and you get a real appreciation of how big, fit and hard they hit. That just remind me why I just I love refereeing – so I don’t have to take those big hits.”