SCOTLAND coach Scott Johnson refused to hide his contempt for the refereeing decisions that helped to yank the prospect of a first-ever Scotland win over South Africa in the Republic from their grasp with just over 20 minutes of a pulsating Test match remaining.
The one decision which most infuriated him was the sin-binning of lock Jim Hamilton. He accepted that the big forward should probably have kept his hands to himself, but insisted that an open-handed shove of his opposite number Eben Etzebeth did not warrant a yellow card.
“I am bitterly disappointed,” he said. “I believe we could have won and would go as far as to say that I think we should have.
“There was a ten-minute period where we were down to 14 men and we’re not playing tiddly-winks. I’ve never seen someone sin-binned for that before. It was ridiculous. I was watching a game of rugby where you saw that kind of thing right the way through. That was nothing but embarrassing.
“Ten minutes for that. That was handbag stuff and it ruined a great, competitive game of footy.
“It certainly allowed the Boks back into the game and all I’m asking for is consistency, and that was completely inconsistent.
“Did the punishment fit the crime? That would be my argument. You saw that happening several times in the game. And you can ask me a thousand times and I won’t change my mind. That punishment didn’t fit the crime.
“Someone just asked me whether I would cite anyone and probably the fourth official would be a good place to start. Could we start there?
“We were in that game, up to our eyeballs, and you look at the other stuff. The tackle area for example. It has to work both ways, has to be fair. I asked the guys to work very hard in the tackle area, but at those late penalties towards the end of the game there they [South African players] didn’t roll away from the player, yet we were getting penalised at the other end.”
Johnson, right, added: “Look, I don’t usually have a crack at officials. My record will tell you that. But, tonight, this is a crack. We want consistency and tonight was inconsistent.
“We did wonderfully well. When you look at the injuries we had, and the injuries on the pitch as well with two tens [stand-offs] down, I was nearly getting my boots on and I haven’t played for 30 years.
“We were brave and resilient and I asked the boys for a special effort and they gave me everything. We were up against a quality rugby team and we knew that.
“We had a horrendous week with injuries, and trying to get a side together. The physios worked 24/7 to get a team on the pitch and to say I’m proud would be an understatement. But they didn’t deserve some of that and that’s why we’re disappointed.”
Johnson is likely to be forced into flying more players out from Scotland for the final match against Italy in Pretoria, with both Ruaridh Jackson and Peter Horne looking to have suffered serious injuries, and back row Ryan Wilson also nursing a painful knock.
But captain Greig Laidlaw insisted that that kind of effort, and putting bodies on the line to stop marauding Springboks, was vital if his side were to regain some pride. He praised his team’s work ethic and their ability to turn around what seemed like a hopeless situation, having lost 27-17 to Samoa and being written off completely ahead of this Test.
“I am bitterly disappointed and am in the same boat as Johnno,” he said. “We put our bodies on the line there tonight and it is just so disappointing to come away with nothing. That ten-minute period sorely changed the game in favour of South Africa. That was where the game turned.
“But we put everything into that and proved that we are not as bad a team as we maybe looked last week. We are good players and now we have to look to take the positives from this and finish with a win in the last game.”