Stuart Hogg ‘categorically’ denies biting Willie Le Roux in Lions defeat

Second Test in Cape Town saw more controversial refereeing and TMO decisions

The British & Irish Lions fullback Stuart Hogg has "categorically" denied accusations in the South African media and social media that he appeared to bite his South African counterpart Willie le Roux during Saturday's fractious second test in Cape Town.

Video footage circulating on social media purporting to show Hogg biting his opposite number on the arm, which has been put up on South African media websites. The footage is not conclusive, though Le Roux appears to turn to the referee as if to indicate that he has been a victim of foul play.

In response, Hogg issued a statement on Sunday which read: “Following speculation that has surfaced online, I would like to categorically deny any foul play in last night’s game. I would never bite an opponent and I am annoyed and upset by this unsubstantiated accusation. I’ve always been proud of playing rugby in the spirit of the game.

“Respect to the Springboks for their deserved win yesterday. The squad is hurting after last night’s defeat, but it’s all to play for next week. It’s going to be a cup final and everyone’s going to be up for it.”


The Lions led 9-6 at half-time before being overpowered in the second period by the Springboks, who scored 21 unanswered points, and Maro Itoje, man of the match in the Lions' first Test win, is also facing trial by social media and the South African media after appearing to press his knee down on the throat of the Springbok centre, Damian de Allende long after the ball had left the ruck.

The former England outhalf Andy Goode posted a video of the incident on twitter with the comment: "Not a great look from Maro Itoje is it?"

One South African rugby website speculated that the citing commissioner could be busy, but in continuing an ugly few days for the sport, that might extend to some Springboks players as well.

Both Cheslin Kolbe and Faf de Klerk were fortunate not to receive red cards. Kolbe took out Conor Murray in the air, for which he received a yellow card on the false premise by referee Ben O'Keeffe that he landed on his back.

However the citing commissioner may decide that further punishment is warranted.

De Klerk appeared to catch Conor Murray’s head with his right shoulder when making a tackle without properly wrapping his arms but somehow escaped censure by the South African TMO Marius Jonker and O’Keeffe.

Jacques Nienaber, the Boks head coach, maintained that Kolbe’s yellow card was the right decision. “I thought it was the right call, a yellow card. They followed the process to a ‘T’.”

Warren Gatland wouldn’t be drawn on whether Kolbe should have been red carded.

“I’m not going to comment on the referee’s decisions. We will have our meeting with the referee this week and see what the assessors come back with in terms of their decisions. It didn’t look great from where I was, but he decided it was a yellow card.”

The agenda for the game had been set by the astonishing 62-minute video rant by Rassie Erasmus, which had served to focus unprecedented scrutiny on the performance of the match officials.

Gatland declined to say whether the Erasmus video had influenced the officials.

“I thought it was pretty interesting. There’s been enough said. I won’t be going on social media this week and I don’t really want to comment on that because I want to let other people take care of that. The last thing we need is a war of words and being accused of doing certain things.

“It’s amazing to me how the narrative changed with regard to the TMO. I mean I didn’t make one comment leading up to the game last week on the TMO, yet I was accused of questioning his integrity.

“That’s the messages they were giving out. We will keep things to ourselves and go through the proper channels when we talk with the referee after reviewing the game and then hopefully get some feedback from him and us give them some feedback as well.”

The British & Irish Lions head coach expressed the hope that this past week hasn’t set a dangerous precedent.

“Look, I hope that doesn’t happen. We’ve got systems and processes in place, and hopefully World Rugby does look at that in terms of making sure that everyone follows the protocols and I think that’s important. We do press conferences and try and give feedback and information, and we deal with the referees through World Rugby. That’s the process.

“I hope it doesn’t get to a situation where we end up with things on Twitter, and people airing their views in that way and not through the proper channels.

“I found it quite strange that that approach was taken, but it is definitely not something that I will get involved in. It is important that we keep the integrity in the game as much as we possibly can.”

As expected, the Springboks have added Duane Vermeulen to their squad in the expectation that their World Cup-winning number eight will be part of their matchday squad for next Saturday’s third Test series decider.

The 54-times capped 35-year-old has been undergoing rehabilitation followig surgery several weeks ago on an ankle injury and Nienaber said: “Duane will join us on Sunday and will be medically assessed as soon as possible.”

“We will never risk a player who is not 100 per cent fit but he brings experience to the squad and it will be great to have him with us.”

Nienaber added that the Boks will know more about Pieter-Steph du Toit’s injury on Monday. The 2019 World Player of the Year was forced off in the second Test with a shoulder injury evidently sustained after a slightly late tackle by Duhan van der Merwe.

Speaking after the game, Nienaber said: “I haven’t seen Pieter-Steph come off a lot, but there is no detailed assessment as yet, and it will probably be 48 hours before we get a full diagnosis.

“Once we’ve had all those checks done, we’ll have a proper idea after that. But, ja, he’s not normally someone who comes off for nothing.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times