France vs South Africa referee Ben O’Keeffe sent unusual message by Rassie Erasmus after huge call in Springboks loss

The 2023 World Cup’s final semi-final spot is up for grabs after a dramatic weekend of quarterfinal play, with either France or South Africa likely to join Argentina, New Zealand, and England in the final four.

At the Stade de France in Paris, the two heavyweights will square off in what is expected to be a thrilling contest between the tournament hosts and the reigning world champions.

The center for tonight’s game is New Zealander Ben O’Keeffe, who has received praise from both sets of supporters in the past.

Who is Ben O’Keeffe?

O’Keeffe, who oversaw three games in Japan four years ago, is now officiating at his second World Cup. He began officiating at the age of 19, went pro five years later, and has three times been named New Zealand’s top referee.

O’Keeffe, who is regarded as one of the top rugby referees in the world, is also a licensed ophthalmologist, a physician who treats patients with eye diseases. He is a co-founder of oDocs Eye Care, a company that develops technologies to shield people from becoming blind.

He had earlier declared, “Certainly, no one can question my eyesight.” “I practice ophthalmology. Over the past few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to juggle both occupations because working as a professional referee has become a full-time commitment.

Message from Rassie

O’Keefe will be the referee for tonight’s quarterfinal, although he has previously presided over one of the biggest games of the competition thus far, which also featured the Springboks.

The pivotal Pool B encounter between South Africa and Ireland was eagerly anticipated, and the New Zealander more than lived up to expectations after being trusted to take charge of the blockbuster match, putting in a calm performance throughout, and making the crucial calls correctly in a high-stress situation.

Even though his team lost by a score of 13-8, Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, who is not well known for his backing of referees, was moved by O’Keeffe’s performance.

He even went so far as to send a special congratulatory message to the referee and his team of officials, as he also issued a public apology to the people of South Africa for the defeat.

“Congrats to the Irish and sorry (South Africa),” he said. “We will just work harder and make you proud! Also nice to be involved in a game so intense and physical without the referee getting too much involved! Well done Ben and your team. Thank you (South Africa) for all the support was really lekka !! (maar hartseer)”

A French speaker

O’Keefe attracted attention when he spoke with both sides in their native tongues during England’s Six Nations match against France earlier this year. Many people found his fluency in French to be very impressive, and a Rugby World article complimenting him for his language skills resulted from it.

“So often in the world game we hear complaints that Anglophone officials aren’t doing their bit,” said the article. “But O’Keefe has obviously put in the job, as the Rugby World Cup will be held in France from September 8 to October 28. In fact, he has been so engrossed in the game there that he has also officiated in France’s Top 14 this season.”

After seeing O’Keefe speak fluent French in a match between Racing and La Rochelle back in January, Irish journalist Murray Kinsella said on social media: “Great to hear Kiwi referee Ben O’Keeffe speaking impressive French when he took a Top 14 game at the weekend ahead of the Six Nations.”

Who are the France v South Africa officials?

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)

Assistant Referees: Paul Williams and James Doleman (both New Zealand)

TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)

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