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'So many s--t emotions:' Distraught Cane says he'll have to live with red card pain 'forever', Foz questions Kolisi escape

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28th October, 2023
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STADE DE FRANCE – New Zealand captain Sam Cane has become the first player sent off in a World Cup final, being dismissed for a high tackle on Springbok Jesse Kriel in the first half at Stade de France, while his rival skipper Siya Kolisi narrowly escaped the same fate.

The All Blacks played 60 minutes with 14 men, after Shannon Frizell also saw yellow, but had their chances to win before falling 12-11. The Boks had a second player in the sin bin for the dying stages of the game, with Cheslin Kolbe hiding his head under his jersey, too stressed to watch.

Cane was initially sent to the sin bin on 29 minutes but his card was upgraded to red soon after – leading to questions from ex-Wallaby skipper Michael Hooper as to why World Rugby decided against a 20-minute red card trial for this World Cup.

Cane was in a world of emotional pain afterwards.

“There’s so many s–t emotions on a personal level. There’s just so much hurt right now it’s hard to find the words to explain it, but at same time I’m so proud of the group,” Cane said.

“They’re a fantastic group of men who care so much about playing for the All Blacks, care so much about making New Zealand proud.

“At the time it caught me off guard, but anything around the head has ramifications. I’m not here to discuss the right or wrong [of the decision]. Unfortunately it’s something I have to live with forever.”

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At the time the TMO told referee Wayne Barnes: “The yellow is upgraded to a red. A high degree of danger – no clear and obvious mitigation.”

 Siya Kolisi of South Africa commits a high tackle with head contact on Ardie Savea of New Zealand during the Rugby World Cup Final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Stade de France on October 28, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Ramos - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Siya Kolisi of South Africa commits a high tackle with head contact on Ardie Savea of New Zealand during the Rugby World Cup Final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Stade de France on October 28, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Ramos – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

The Springboks led 9-3 at the time of the incident and were ahead 12-6 at halftime.

Soon after halftime the game took another huge twist when Springboks captain Kolisi went high on Ardie Savea and was yellow carded – he faced a nervous wait to see if it would be upgraded to red as well, but the TMO decided that while there was high danger there was enough mitigation.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster questioned if it was the right call to allow Kolisi back on the field.


“I don’t want the game to be us talking about red cards. It is what it is,” said Foster. “There was an attempt to wrap [from Cane] and didn’t seem to be a lot of force. The hit on Ardie [by Kolisi] had a lot of force.

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“The game has got a few issues it’s got to sort out. That’s not sour grapes. There were two similar incidents one was a red, one was a yellow (for Siya Kiloisi).”

Foster also defended Cane.

“I think we’ve all seen the way Sam has contributed to the game, our team behind the scenes, he’s been fantastic, worthy of being captain of the All Blacks, which is a fantastic honour and a privilege and I think he’s carried that magnificently well and I am incredibly proud of him,” said Foster. “I am incredibly proud to coach him.”

Foster reflected on the “heart and soul that the team showed afterwards s to stay in that fight.

“I think that’s largely due to the spirit of the group and the spirit of the leaders and even though Sam wasn’t on, he was a big part of that.”

Kolisi said he was nervous at first when yellow carded but his mood improved when he saw video of the incident.

“It’s never nice for any player to get a card but we knew when they got the card they would lift. We spoke about that at half-time and they did,” he said of the Cane red.

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“I was nervous but I watched the video and I did change level so it was a secondary [movement]. I trusted the guys around me. It was difficult and messy but we’ve been in these situation before and I trusted the guys. When I came back on I gave everything.”

The Stan Sport pundits felt the TMO had got the two big calls right.

“It’s only just enough [of mitigation for Kolis] but it’s correct in my opinion (but) it doesn’t feel like justice for All Blacks fans who have been denied their captain on a technical issue,” said Stan Sport’s Morgan Turinui.

“That is huge for the skipper of the All Blacks in a RWC final,” said Tim Horan on Stan Sport. “The new laws in the game in the last 12 months it was bound to happen at one of the big matches at this World Cup.

New Zealand's Sam Cane heads to the sin bin after being shown a yellow during the Rugby World Cup 2023 final match at the Stade de France in Paris, France. Picture date: Saturday October 28, 2023. (Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)

New Zealand’s Sam Cane heads to the sin bin after being shown a yellow during the Rugby World Cup 2023 final match at the Stade de France in Paris, France. Picture date: Saturday October 28, 2023. (Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)

“You’ve got to feel for Sam Cane there, devastated on the sideline,” said Turinui. ‘”By the high tackle protocols and guidelines it’s the correct decision.”

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Former Wallabies James Horwill and Michael Hooper agreed that it was the correct decision by Barnes and his assistants. The English referee, in his first World Cup final, was the centre of controversy when the All Blacks were eliminated in the 2007 quarters after missing a key forward pass.

“It was the right decision. It’s a shame it’s happened. The way the game is adjudicated they just needed to see some dip. If there’s any dip from Sam Cane there I think it stays as a yellow,” Horwill said.

Hooper said: “I wonder what World Rugby’s thinking. This is a perfect opportunity for the 20 minute red card bring someone else on. It is a red card, he should be off the field but you want to see a full quota [of players].”

The 20-minute red card, where the offending player could be replaced by another after 20 minutes, was trialled in the southern hemisphere over the past two years but World Rugby opted not to proceed with it at this tournament.

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