O'Keeffe, Gardner to referee Rugby World Cup semi-finals

5:51 am on 18 October 2023
Ben O'Keeffe (L) and Angus Gardner (R)

Ben O'Keeffe (L) and Angus Gardner (R) Photo: Photosport

New Zealand's Ben O'Keeffe will referee Sunday's World Cup semi-final between England and holders South Africa, World Rugby said on Wednesday, despite drawing criticism for his performance in the Springboks' quarter-final against hosts France.

Australian Angus Gardner will referee the other semi-final between Argentina and New Zealand on Saturday.

Gardner had the whistle when the All Blacks beat Argentina 43-12 in their season-opening game in Mendoza in July.

He also controlled the two teams three years ago in Sydney, when the Pumas pulled off their first-ever defat of the All Black, winning 25-15 at Parramatta Stadium.

O'Keeffe was heavily criticised by France captain Antoine Dupont for his allegedly tolerant refereeing in the rucks in Sunday's 29-28 South African win against Les Bleus.

"It's hard to talk about things at the moment but there were a few clear things that should have been blown that weren't blown," Dupont said on Monday.

"I don't want to be a bad loser and complain about the refereeing, but I'm not sure it was up to the mark tonight."

The French also slammed O'Keeffe after Cheslin Kolbe charged down Thomas Ramos's conversion following Peato Mauvaka's try when TV footage showed the South Africa winger crossed the try-line shortly before the kicker was in motion.

O'Keeffe and Gardner will referee their first World Cup semi-finals after South African Jaco Peyper was not considered because of an injury sustained during the quarter-final between Argentina and Wales.

- Reuters