Erasmus and SA Rugby find themselves in World Rugby’s dock over videos

SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.
SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.
Image: Deryck Foster/BackpagePix

Rassie Erasmus and SA Rugby find themselves in World Rugby’s dock over the former’s viral video in which he painstakingly took to task the match officials following the first Test between the Springboks and the British & Irish Lions.

Erasmus produced 26 video clips in which he highlighted match officials’ errors and inconsistencies‚ while also lamenting the communication and debriefing shortfalls in coaches and referees’ post match engagement.

World Rugby invoked clause 18 of its code of conduct to charge Erasmus with misconduct. The world governing body frowns upon criticism of its officials, and the book usually heads speedily in the direction of those who dare.

“World Rugby condemns any public criticism of their selection‚ performance or integrity which undermines their role‚ the well-established and trust-based coach-officials feedback process‚ and more importantly‚ the values that are at the heart of the sport‚” it  said.

World Rugby clearly believes the existing channels for a coach and referee debrief are adequate, but that was a point bemoaned by Erasmus before his play‚ pause‚ rewind routine last week.

The Lions also raised the ire of the world governing body for having the temerity to question the appointment of Marius Jonker‚ a non-neutral television match official after the original appointee Brendon Pickerill fell victim to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

“Having conducted a full review of all the available information‚ World Rugby is concerned individuals from both teams have commented on the selection and/or performance of match officials.

“However‚ the extensive and direct nature of the comments made by Rassie Erasmus within a video address‚ in particular‚ meet the threshold to be considered a breach of World Rugby Regulation 18 (Misconduct and Code of Conduct) and will be considered by an independent disciplinary panel.”

The water boy duties Erasmus has engaged in also caught the eye of game’s lawmakers. Erasmus was at pains to explain he is not the head coach of the Springboks and nothing precludes him from performing those duties.

World Rugby insinuated rather haughtily Erasmus should know better.

“World Rugby has reminded the management of both teams of the importance of this area and their obligations regarding the values of the sport.

“To protect the integrity of the sport and its values‚ World Rugby will also undertake a review of its Code of Conduct relating to incidents of this nature with a view to strengthening scope‚ rules and sanctions.

“As with any Test series‚ SA versus the British & Irish Lions is a showcase of rugby that generates great excitement and interest‚ even more so at this challenging time for sport and society.

“It is an opportunity for both teams and their management to set a positive example and concentrate on the spectacle and a wonderful example of rugby and its values at their best.”

There is nothing surprising about the reaction from the game’s governing body. Erasmus may be in high resolution breach of their precious code of conduct‚ but they would be missing a potentially watershed moment if they did not put to full review the procedures governing the appointment and appraisal of their match officials.

A judicial committee and date are yet to be set for the hearing.

The abiding feature of SA Rugby’s response to the World Rugby statement was its brevity.

“SA Rugby has noted the charges brought by World Rugby and will respond through the designated channels. Media are advised there will be no further comment from SA Rugby until the process is complete.”