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WATCH: Wayne Barnes recalls incredible Siya Kolisi interaction

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Tuesday Nov 28, 2023

Recently retired international referee Wayne Barnes has seen it all during two decades with the whistle.

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The 44-year-old is regarded as one of the best referees of all time and has handled some of the biggest fixtures in the sport’s history.

No fixture, however was bigger than his recent handling of the 2023 Rugby World Cup final.

With the eyes of the world on him, Barnes and his team handled the fiery contest between the Springboks and All Blacks with aplomb.

Yet, in what is fast becoming a nasty side effect of professional sport, Barnes faced heavy online abuse from disgruntled fans.

The Springboks would win the match 12 – 11 to secure their second consecutive title and fourth overall to stand alone as the most successful World Cup nation in history.

Barnes has since spoken of the toll it took on both him and his family, which you can read here.

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One moment that has been identified by many as the first truly noticeable tirade of online abuse was aimed at Barnes’ former colleague, Nick Berry.

Berry caught a lot of heat online when South African Rugby’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus recorded a one-hour video and released it critiquing Berry’s performance as South Africa lost the opening test of the 2021 British and Irish Lions Tour.

Erasmus would receive a lengthy ban but would have further incidents online in later months.

Clearly identifying the abuse that referees have to deal with, Springbok captain Siya Kolisi showed immense class in a subsequent interaction with Barnes.

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Speaking after South Africa’s drubbing of Italy in 2022, Barnes and Kolisi caught up at the post-match function.

Speaking on Irish radio show Off The Ball, Barnes was asked about the interaction which came after South Africa had lost narrowly to France in Marseille.

“I guess the irony kind of jumps out in these moments,” Barnes said.

“The week after I had refereed South Africa vs France in Marseille. I was on the touchline for Italy vs South Africa.

“I was on touch for Matthew Carly and we spoke a little bit earlier about post match rituals and celebrations. The Italian Federation put on drinks and a food reception and there are some speechs.

“Siya who I have got so much time and admiration for, found me out in the room and he came over.

“We had a conversation and you could see and he was very concerned about the abuse that I had online over the last couple of weeks and said that’s not good enough and he apologised.

“I think that just showed the kind of man that he is.” Barnes concluded.

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