Rassie Erasmus could reportedly face a ‘severe punishment’ from World Rugby in relation to his hour-long video criticising officials midway through the recent British and Irish Lions tour.
South Africa ’s director of rugby posted the 62-minute rant after his side lost the opening Test of the series, identifying numerous calls and infringements he felt referee Nic Berry got wrong.
The Springboks went on to win the second and third Tests to complete their series comeback, though controversies regarding the officiating took an unfortunate share of the spotlight.
The Times reported World Rugby considers Erasmus to have ‘crossed a line’ in his public critique, with formal charges expected to be brought against the former Munster coach.
It’s understood rugby’s governing body has found the South Africa chief to be in breach of rules relating to misconduct, though the hearing isn’t expected to take place for another two weeks.
Erasmus, 48, and his federation will have an opportunity to appeal any charges, with fears that the post will dissuade people from wanting to become officials in future.
It was confirmed prior to the deciding Test that Erasmus would face a disciplinary hearing for his comments, though he was still allowed to oversee the third and final game.
World Rugby’s statement on the matter read: "Match officials are the backbone of the sport, and without them there is no game.
"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.
"Having conducted a full review of all the available information, World Rugby is concerned that 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, meets the threshold to be considered a breach of World Rugby Regulation 18 (Misconduct and Code of Conduct) and will now be considered by an independent disciplinary panel.”
It’s been reported South Africa’s director could face a stadium ban, though there’s no specific mention as to how long any suspension may last.
In his Vimeo post—which has since been made private—Erasmus referred to comments made by Lions counterpart Warren Gatland, who expressed concerns at a press conference regarding Marius Jonker’s appointment as the TMO.
Gatland later said he was “disappointed” to have been named as part of the disciplinary, explaining his comments were not a criticism of South African Jonker, but the selection process itself.
Fellow New Zealander Brendon Pickerill was scheduled to serve as the series’ television match official, but Covid-19 travel restrictions meant he was forced to pull out.
That left Jonker as the alternative option for the role, and Gatland was further incensed after learning World Rugby “had known for at least a week or so” that Pickerill may be unavailable.
Many would agree Erasmus’ 62-minute video post differed greatly from Gatland’s comments, which were made in front of reporters and left him more open to immediate scrutiny.
Gatland also jokingly criticised Erasmus donning a bib to act as ‘water boy’ for South Africa during the Lions series, with head coaches technically the only ones prohibited from doing so.
Furthermore, Erasmus denied possessing a Twitter ‘burner account’ under the name ‘Jaco Johan’ after spectators spotted similarities and eerie coincidences related to the two.
The tour of South Africa was Gatland’s first series defeat as Lions head coach on his third attempt, though that result may come at a cost for his Springbok counterpart.
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