Last Thursday, World Rugby dramatically issued Rassie Erasmus with a ban on all match-day activities for two Tests as a result of recent social media posts, which were deemed to be critical of officials.
The ban will come to an end after this Saturday’s clash between South Africa and England in London, although it will be the second year in succession that Erasmus is forced to be absent from arriving at Twickenham. Last year, he was issued his first World Rugby ban on the eve of this fixture as well.
With the Springboks currently preparing to face England this Saturday, coach Jacques Nienaber announced the South African team lineup on Tuesday, but during the press conference, plenty of focus centred around “Rassie-gate”.
The English journalists in particular seemed to almost solely focus on asking questions about this subject, and at one point the Springboks media manager even had to step in to instruct Nienaber not to answer one question.
England coach Eddie Jones also predictably received a question on this subject, and in typical fashion, he responded in humorous fashion before changing tack to highlight the importance of respecting referees.
“He may come in a laundry box, mate… I’m sure he’ll get in somewhere,” Jones joked, before adding: “I’m not going down that track. The only thing I’d say is that we need to respect the referees. We need to look after referees as they’re an important part of our game. What’s happened has happened.”
TEAM NEWS | SPRINGBOKS TO UNLEASH EVAN ROOS ON ENGLAND
ALSO READ | SPRINGBOKS: EVERY TEST RESULT FROM 2022 SEASON
The latest Rassie Erasmus ban will end this weekend
According to Sunday newspaper Rapport, Erasmus’ suspension could in fact have simply been a temporary measure to get him away from matches and the public spotlight, and World Rugby may consider taking the matter further.
World Rugby chief executive officer Alan Gilpin has now sought to further clear the air even though he admitted Erasmus “doesn’t agree” with his punishment.
“What is important is we are able to move forward in a dialogue with them (SA Rugby),” Gilpin told the BBC. “Let’s have a discussion about why certain behaviours are appropriate or inappropriate. If coaches or other people involved in South African rugby or anywhere else don’t think the protocols are working, let’s talk about that.
“This is about every referee who is, on a Sunday morning, refereeing kids’ rugby anywhere in the world, having permission to do the job properly, and not having every parent on the touchline posting videos on social media,” Gilpin said.
“That’s the really important thing in terms of the integrity of the game. The referees will be the first to tell you they welcome feedback. They are really up for those discussions with coaches.
“We have to make sure we protect them in that sense, but our view, and he may not agree, is that he has crossed the line. For us, it is really important we reinforce where those lines are, for everybody to see.”
Several SA coaches and union bosses have also apparently told Rapport that Erasmus’ behaviour is selfish, and that his ban is tarnishing SA rugby’s image and is sure to have a negative affect on other SA teams playing abroad.
In handing down Erasmus’ suspension, the world governing body reiterated a stance that ”condemns any public criticism of match official selection, performance or integrity, which undermines their role, the trust-based coach/match officials feedback process and the values of integrity, respect, solidarity and discipline”.
The ban also prevents Erasmus from any “engagement with media and social media in relation to match officials”.
ALSO READ | WORLD RUGBY BANS RASSIE ERASMUS … AGAIN
The director of rugby would have had few complaints about the officials this past Saturday though as South Africa thrashed Italy, while he took to Twitter after the match. “Thanks South Africa, appreciate your views and input! Lekka,” he commented as he referred back to another tweet of his from the previous weekend.