If Sunday night's Rugby World Cup final proved one thing, it is that the right man was in charge.

Craig Joubert was the referee of the tournament by some distance and has an incredible career in front of him if he keeps looking after his body and doesn't get ahead of himself.

The only thing that should stop him refereeing the finals in 2015 and 2019 will be if South Africa make the final.

You could see from the players how pressure does funny things to the brain, but Joubert remained calm for 80 minutes.


It was noticeable that he modified his style ever-so-slightly in the final. He remained true to his approach, but policed the breakdown a little more leniently than in earlier games. What you don't want in a final is for the result to come back to one decision.

He was very reserved in the decisions he made around the tackle. When things got tight in the second half there were times he might have penalised players for leaving their feet and fringing around on the offside line, but he chose to use verbal warnings on the run rather than the whistle.

You could say it detracted from the game as an open-running spectacle, but it was clear by then that both sides were determined to play mistake-free, conservative rugby so the fact that it was a bit of a grind was not down to Joubert.

Both sides were allowed to recycle possession and, given how much hinged on the result, both were disciplined in the tackle.

With games of this magnitude you're walking a fine balance between giving too much latitude and not enough. There will be plenty of people saying he let too much go, but I liked the fact that the game was there for the players to win or lose. You didn't see the players gesticulating much, which says he made the calls that mattered to them and let them sort out the rest.

The All Blacks couldn't play in the style they wanted, but that was simply because France were the dominant side, not because of Joubert.

For me, the best referees at this tournament were the fittest ones - the ones who got to every breakdown and stood over it, not refereeing from a distance. The games with the pile-ups and the controversies - South Africa v Samoa and South Africa v Australia in particular - were the ones where the referee wasn't at the breakdown.

In a tournament of this length, you are always going to get controversies, but I think referees' boss Paddy O'Brien will be pleased. There were 48 games and you could point to only two or three and say the referee played too big a part in the outcome. If you ask me, that's not a bad return.

Kelvin Deaker is a former international referee.