OPINION: Rassie Erasmus deserves credit for challenging World Rugby
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CAPE TOWN – Rassie Erasmus should be lauded for challenging officiating inconsistencies and World Rugby’s silence.
In an unprecedented move, the South Africa director of rugby released an hour-long video in which he goes through 26 clips, highlighting a string of refereeing inconsistencies against the Springboks from the first Test of the Series against the British & Irish Lions at Cape Town Stadium last weekend.
In the video, Erasmus addresses the Springboks being disrespected by the match officials and not receiving the same treatment or time of day as the Lions’ leadership. He also goes into match referee Nic Berry’s refusal to listen to and shed some light on the areas they needed clarity on, despite initially being open to discussing these issues with the Boks, as Erasmus had said that they wanted to work on whatever errors they needed to.
Erasmus also spoke about South African TMO Marius Jonker – who’s involvement in the game was questioned by Warren Gatland in the build-up to the opening Test – and how Gatland’s comments put Jonker in an awkward position where any ruling in favour of the Boks could be attributed to bias.
During the team announcement press conference earlier this week, Erasmus said that World Rugby was slow to respond to the queries they had regarding some of the calls made in the game. In the video, he added that the governing body also refused to respond until Tuesday morning and cited protocol as the reason for not responding to his request for a meeting before their team selection on Sunday.
Erasmus, clearly and rightfully frustrated, explained his reasoning for being more vocal in the media this week in the clip: “We feel we got no joy from anything because we were quiet last week and they (Lions) were all over the media. We got no positive results [from that] on the field. I’m sure this week Marius Jonker won’t be questioned by Warren, but last week it was all over the newspapers.”
Erasmus made it clear that he would take ownership of any consequence from World Rugby, and while some would probably just slap ‘side show’ on Erasmus’ recent actions, it should be seen as him taking a stance and challenging something that has been problematic for far too long.
For too long have refs been able to hide behind the luxury of ‘interpretation’. Coaches know better than to publicly criticise officials, because they know all too well that there would be stern repercussions from World Rugby. In the rugby establishment, any criticism of officials has become blasphemy, while they get to walk free despite whatever match-tainting or result-influencing howlers they are guilty of. They cannot be touched.
Erasmus’ message couldn’t have been clearer – the Boks aren’t ‘dirty’, and he wants answers from those who are in charge of the enforcement of the game’s laws. He wants fairness.
Make what you will about how he’s gone about it, something had to be done, and in many ways this route was almost forced.
It’s a cause he feels is worth fighting for, regardless of the consequences. And that makes his public damnation of the rugby institution even more powerful.