The Springboks may no longer be masters of all they survey, but South African refereeing continues to rule the roost. Craig Joubert, a corporate banker from Pietermaritzburg, will control this weekend's World Cup final between New Zealand and France at Eden Park after prevailing over Alain Rolland of Ireland – no great surprise, given Joubert's relatively easy ride in the semi-final between the All Blacks and the Wallabies, as opposed to his rival's more difficult journey through the controversial tie between Les Bleus and Wales.
"Craig's selection was entirely on merit," said Paddy O'Brien, the New Zealander who manages the elite group of Test-calibre referees on behalf of the International Rugby Board. "We continue to work together as a unit and maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards infringements and foul play across key areas of the game. We may be nearing the conclusion of what has been a truly superb World Cup, but our focus remains firmly on consistency, penalising the 'clear and obvious' and tackling the 'big five' concerns."
Wales know all about the "big five", for one of them is tip-tackling: the offence for which captain Sam Warburton was dismissed by Rolland early in the semi-final against France, with such calamitous consequences. The remaining priorities identified by O'Brien before the tournament were the "cadence" at the scrum engagement, midfield offsides, obstruction at the maul and, most crucially, the release of tackled players at the breakdown. Whether there has been consistency in all areas is open to debate, but there is no doubt that the ruthless treatment of tip-tackling offenders has been a feature of this cup.
O'Brien insisted Rolland's handling of the Warburton incident had not counted against his challenge for a second successive final and there was no reason to suspect him of insincerity. Joubert did not start the tournament as a favourite for preferment at the business end of proceedings but he made a very decent job of the high-pressure game between England and Scotland and also presided over an excellent quarter-final between Wales and Ireland.
Friday's bronze-medal match between Wales and Australia has been awarded to the English official Wayne Barnes, who found himself embroiled in controversy here when he declined to consult the television match official over a disputed penalty goal during the Wales-South Africa game in Wellington – a contest decided by a single point.Reuse content