England v South Africa referee once made decision labelled ‘absolute travesty’

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    For some England fans, the name Ben O'Keefe will strike more fear into their hearts than any in South Africa's menacing line-up.

    The New Zealand referee is the whistle man for England's World Cup semi-final clash with the Springboks this evening, and if he's up to his old tricks it could spell trouble for Steve Borthwick's men. Back in 2020, O'Keefe was chastised by ex-England boss Eddie Jones for sending off Manu Tuilagi for an illegal hit on Wales' George North, reducing England to 13 men at the time.

    An irate Jones said after the game: "That was a good tough win against quality opposition, but at the end it was 16 against 13." When asked to explain who the 16th man was, the Aussie replied: "You work it out."

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    A year later O'Keefe was at the centre of another controversial red card call after sending off Australia’s Marika Koroibete for a high challenge on France captain Anthony Jelonch. Fans hit out at Jelonch for holding his face and flinging himself to the ground in the aftermath, antics which appeared to convinced O'Keefe to produce red.

    Former New Zealand fly-half Andrew Mehrtens criticised the call after the match, branding it "an absolute travesty". And to almost no one's surprise, a disciplinary panel reversed O'Keefe's decision after reviewing the incident.

    Rate England's chances against South Africa out of 10 in the comments section below.

    Tonight's clash at the Stade de France represents England's stiffest test of the tournament so far. The Springboks are favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup and have won four out of five World Cup matches against the English, with their only defeat coming during England's triumphant 2003 campaign.

    The winner of the tie will go on to face New Zealand in next weekend's final. The All Blacks, who smashed Argentina 44-6 in Friday's other semi-final, are the joint-most successful nation in Rugby World Cup history with three triumphs (tied with South Africa).

    • Rugby World Cup
    • Rugby union

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