Sport

JUDGMENT DAY

Rassie Erasmus banned from ‘matchday activities’ for 10 months by World Rugby

South Africa’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus. (Photo: Johan Pretorius / Gallo Images)
By Craig Ray
18 Nov 2021 28

South Africa’s Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, has been banned from all rugby activities for two months and all ‘match-day activities’ until September 2022 by a World Rugby tribunal.

World Rugby found Rassie Erasmus, South Africa’s director of rugby, guilty of six charges of misconduct and made it public on Wednesday, just 72 hours before the Springboks face England at Twickenham.

Erasmus has been banned from all rugby activities for two months after being brought up on six misconduct charges stemming from a 62-minute video released in July.

World Rugby, the sport’s governing body, has used the coverall clause 18 of its code of conduct to charge Erasmus with misconduct, breaking it down into six separate counts, of which he was found guilty on each count. They were as follows:

  1. Erasmus (i) threatened a Match Official that unless a requested meeting took place, he would publish footage containing clips criticising the Match Official’s performance and then making good on that threat; and (ii) published or permitted to be published the Erasmus Video containing numerous comments that were either abusive, insulting and/or offensive to Match Officials.
  2. Erasmus published or permitted to be published the Erasmus Video containing numerous comments that either attacked, disparaged and/or denigrated the Game and the Match Officials appointed by World Rugby to officiate the B&I Lions Series 2021.
  3. Erasmus did not accept or observe the authority and decisions of Match Officials, he published or caused to be published the Erasmus Video containing criticism of 38 different refereeing decisions in the first South Africa v B&I Lions Test on 24 July 2021.
  4. Erasmus published or caused to be published, criticism of the manner in which a Match Official handled a match when he published or caused to be published the Erasmus Video containing criticism of 38 different refereeing decisions in the first South Africa v B&I Lions Test on 24 July 2021.
  5. Erasmus engaged in conduct or activity that may impair public confidence in the integrity and good character of Match Official(s).
  6. Erasmus brought the Game into disrepute when he published or caused to be published the Erasmus Video.

The last evidence of this hearing was heard on 31 October and the verdict was delivered to SA Rugby (Saru) and Erasmus last week. But a hearing to finalise the sanctions was rushed through, and held on 15 November, instead of waiting until the Boks’ final Test of the year against England this coming weekend. It’s curious to say the least.

Erasmus is also suspended from all match-day activities, including coaching and media engagement, until 30 September 2022. That means he won’t be allowed at Twickenham when the Boks meet England in a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final this weekend.

“An independent misconduct committee has found that behaviour displayed by SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus towards match officials during this year’s test series between South Africa and the British & Irish Lions constituted misconduct,” a statement from World Rugby read.

SA Rugby (Saru), Erasmus’ employers, were also found guilty of two charges.

“Saru did not ensure that Rassie Erasmus complied with the World Rugby Code of Conduct and/or permitted Mr Erasmus to commit acts of misconduct; and/or did not publicly correct any comments or publications by or on behalf of Mr Erasmus that amounted to misconduct.

rugby ban kolisi
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi. (Photo: Steve Haag / Gallo Images)

“Saru permitted and/or did not prevent Siya Kolisi and Mzwandile Stick to make comments at a press conference on 30 July 2021 that were not disciplined or sporting and adversely affected the game of rugby; and/or did not publicly correct any such comments so as adversely affected the game of rugby.”

Saru has been fined R400,000 and must issue an apology to the relevant match officials.

Both Erasmus and Saru said they would appeal against the sanctions.

The video

Erasmus dissected the sub-standard refereeing performance by Australian official Nic Berry in the first Test between the Springboks and the British & Irish Lions on 24 July in the now infamous video.

The video, which Erasmus maintains was sent to specific people in the Bok squad and at World Rugby, was leaked for public consumption on 27 July. The panel dismissed Erasmus’ claims that it was leaked without his knowledge or permission, finding in the balance of probabilities that it was a deliberate act.

The panel, chaired by Christopher Quinlan QC, with Nigel Hampton QC and Judge Mike Mika (both New Zealand), backed the match officials and found Erasmus guilty.

The panel acknowledged that Erasmus was frustrated at the lack of feedback from Berry after the match, but found Erasmus guilty of threatening the official that he would leak the video.

“One of the points made by the respondents (Saru and Erasmus) is that referees must be able to accept feedback,” the judgment stated. “That is a fair observation. However, there is a difference between feedback and abuse. This video was not feedback, properly understood. It was an ad hominem attack, which as we have said lacked detached analysis or balance.”

The panel also paints Berry as the victim and goes to great length about how the public release of the video caused him pain and suffering. Yet the same panel lightly dismisses Siya Kolisi’s claims that he felt disrespected by Berry, which Erasmus highlighted in the video.

In a press conference on 30 July, the day before the second Test against the Lions, Kolisi responded to a question about whether he felt disrespected by Berry in the first Test. He confirmed he did.

“We have no reason to doubt the genuineness of his (Siya’s) feelings. However, that is not the same as asserting as a fact that he had been disrespected nor that those feelings are correct,” the verdict read.

“During his testimony, Nic Berry told us that he had “massive respect” for Siya Kolisi as a person and as a player. We accept without reservation Nic Berry’s evidence that he, and his officiating team, did not intentionally disrespect Siya Kolisi.”

Somehow Kolisi’s lived experience was diminished by the panel as not being “a fact”, yet Berry and his team’s actions were unintentional.

The panel “without reservation” accepted Berry’s version, but had reservations about Kolisi’s feelings. Staggering.

In their summation, the panel acknowledged Erasmus’ unblemished disciplinary record after 25 years in professional rugby, but issued the suspension because the nature of the video was so serious.

“Erasmus’ misconduct is much more serious than any of the cases cited to us,” the judgment stated. “This was an especially serious and egregious example of offending of this kind.

“It involved premeditated, multiple abusive and insulting comments and attacks on the officials’ integrity in the course of that 62-minute video.” DM

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All Comments 28

  • What an absolute joke. Horrifying to see recommendations/rulings in a report prepared by two silks and a judge with such poor grammar/syntax errors!

    • Bottom line is ,it wasn’t in the script for us to win the 2019 world cup, but we did, we upended the whole apple cart. WORLD Rugby(think police, you only think like we tell you to think)are upset because Erasmus showed out the farce rugby has become, refs officiating with impunity ,sanctioned by the old f***s movement!!!Well I got news for them every true rugby lover knows the Bokke is the best rugby team in the world since 2019 world cup. I would love for us to win the 2023 world cup. You will have a record number of hemmeroid operations in Europe and elsewhere. He,he,he,he. Jealousy make you nasty!!!

  • And what of the 38 decisions that are at the root of this argy bargy, did the impartial and independent panel revisit the footage to ascertain whether such a phenomenal claim had any merits? Or was their brief to identify misconduct only? Does a world famous rugby coach wake up one morning after 25 years of exemplary behaviour and attack a perfectly innocent referee? The balance of probabilities say hell no. On the same ‘balance of probabilities’ some of those 38 decisions would be indefensible, it would be good to hear some commentary from a panel of expert referees.

  • So, it has happened – Rassie has been sanctioned for the poor refereeing of Nic Berry. Berry brought the game of rugby into disrepute by being such an a-hole and useless referee, not Rassie who focused on facts. The ‘old f***s’ have done it again – scare the living sh** out of any honest rugby official so that they can continue with impunity to rule the roost and be demeaning to whomever they see fit. (Including and especially Siya Kolisi)

  • World Rugby, sitting in their ivory tower of overflowing contempt for anyone who dares question their autocratic behaviour, best beware they do not destroy the appeal of the game. Spectators, who ultimately pay for all of rugby to exist globally, want to see competitive games that are refereed in a fair and competent manner. Berry’s performance in that game was shockingly poor by any measure and he did all he could to avoid Erasmus after the game or to engage in any fair and transparent manner about his performance. World Rugby somehow believe that they can exist without being accountable or transparent with their customers, the spectators – and then to make matters worse, issue edicts such as this drivel they have wrought upon Erasmus. There was no ad hominem attack on Berry – his integrity or personality were not questioned by Erasmus – rather his skill and competence, which was plainly lacking. To claim that Berry suffered “pain and suffering” is ludicrous – if he feels embarrassed by being shown up for his sub-standard performance, then that’s a problem he should address by improving his performance as a referee. You can expect more in-depth analysis and dissecting of referees performances in future – they will come from interested spectators who will be demanding transparency, competence and fairness from WR. A can of worms has been opened here and WR thinks they can just ignore it in the hope it will go away. It won’t!!

      • if you read the transcript it was first sent to
        5 people. Berry, Jurie Roux+ Jaque nienaber (all in SA), Joe Schmidt (Ire) Joel Jutge (Fra)
        then Rassie shares it within the team whatsapp group.
        30 minutes later, nic berry (so he hasn’t even watched the full thing yet) forwards it to head of referees in australia
        after 6 hours it has been viewed by
        South Africa (41), Australia (8), United Kingdom (3), France
        (2), (Total 54)
        Rassies response:“Hoe de fok in Australia and UK?”

  • So the dinosaurs at world rugby will remain just that. And the Boks will be without a water carrier. All because of some incompetent Aussie referee, and a loser as the Lion’s coach. God save the Queen

    • I wonder why the “independent misconduct committee” failed to examine the behaviour displayed by Nic Berry who I guess will remain unsanctioned despite poor refereeing?

    • Erm. Speaking of sore losers I think SA lost that test. I wonder what our “Waterboy” would have done if SA had won?? Its not the incompetent referees fault that he has been sanctioned but his own for trying to be clever. In this age of social media to think that his so called private diatribe wouldn’t go viral is at best naive.

      • You think…you didn’t know…and yes he is our Waterboy, but also our Wonderboy!. Like you and others that gave them no chance, our wonderboy simply outwitted your English/Australian/Irish teams and others at both the World Cup and the Lion series.

  • When I read the 6 counts that he was found guilty of, it seems to me that four of them are exactly the same charges, but just hashed and worded differently.

    “criticism of the manner in which a Match Official handled a match”
    “comments that either attacked, disparaged and/or denigrated the match officials”
    “comments that were either abusive, insulting and/or offensive to Match Officials”
    “did not accept or observe the authority and decisions of Match Officials”

    If they hadn’t been in rush, I’m sure they could have rehashed it into slightly different slant

  • The nature of the ruling and disciplinary action is illogical and has to be appealed by someone one more competent than the world rugby officials

  • Rassie knew this was coming. However, Warren Gatland threw the first bomb in this saga in his South Africa A game post match interview. He argued that the card given to Faf de Klerk should have been red, not yellow. He had seen head contact and the official were watching a different picture. In Europe that would have been red. South Africa was enduring a few other bombs at the time, COVID, riots, taxi violence and could have done without that. Surely this is criticism of the match officials? Why did World Rugby not act then? It’s also good to know that the close to 100 members of World Rugby should meet a European standard.

  • If you have a career or a job and you make 23 mistakes while at work you will be fired.Rugby since it turned professional has continously changed or adapted the rules,why?Who thinks out some of this crappy ideas.You don’t change something that works,soccer in a 100 years got 1 new rule give or take.Badminton still has the same rules,only exception RUGBY.There is a saying, the more laws a country has the moe corrupt it is, we won’t go into that, but rugby is actually the most open for corruption.Modern rugby needed this shake up by Rassie ,but the World rugby stays Dinosaurs with tunnel vision!!!Well x#@#x them “moer hulle”like Genl Veary says.They are sure to translate it wrongly like SAPS management

  • I Know that the ref always gets blamed if something goes wrong but in my opinion the ref of the day, Mr Nic Berry, was not at his best.
    To be honest he was completely one eyed, our Bok captain was insulted, but I suppose that’s OK. Remember that was looong before the Rassie incident.

  • World Rugby are an appalling embarrassment to the game of rugby. Arrogant, dictatorial and completely intolerant. Won’t tolerate any criticism however justified or constructive. While they regularly tolerate incompetent, poor, and possibly corrupt referees and officials. Well done Rassie for standing up to these out of touch petty dictators. I for one am right behind you. We need to get rid of World Rugby and replace it with a body that properly represents the people that really make the game – the players, the spectators, the sponsors and the coaches.

  • The one-eyed comments below show South African “rugby fans” in the worst possible light; do they seriously believe that the whole World is against South Africa? Rather, I think it is the reverse that, because of SA’s difficult history, the World bends over backwards to see us in the best possible light.

    Rassie has, almost single-handedly brought not only rugby, but more pertinently South African rugby, into grave disrepute, by his one-eyed, grossly-misleading and generally patently wrong analysis.

    SA rugby needs to think long and hard as to whether it continues to support this clumsy buffoon, or it seeks to apologise, mend bridges and re-join the global game we all love. We need World rugby – World rugby does not need us.

    Unless and until we can collectively learn to love watching great rugby – accept that we can, and will be defeated from time to time by better teams, and the reasonable acceptance of such does not involve haranguing, insulting and demeaning match officials, and that rugby, both off and on the pitch, involves more than thugby, then we will continue to be be defined and seen by rugby fans and officials, the World over, as unworthy opponents.

    SA rugby needs to firmly and conclusively show and say to the World, that Rassie does not define us, does not speak for us, and that the spirit of rugby is bigger than this buffoon.

    • Nonsense. Rassie is one of South Africa’s best coaches and he’s proved it in spades. The problem is World Rugby. They need to clean up their house, improve the quality and notorious inconsistency of their Test Match referees and sort out the bewildering and contradictory rules they’ve brought into the game.

      • I agree entirely with Jon Quirk. Why SA Rugby appointed Nienaber when Erasmus is clearly running the show is beyond me. Jobs for pals I guess. Two salaries for one job is so typically South African. The whole “Waterboy” exercise is an embarrassing farce and frankly we can do without this attention seeking and distracting posturing. And to suggest SA is the best rugby playing nation in the world is really something. Winning by kicking and brawling and playing for scrum penalties is hardly what can be called attractive. The next time some of these players actually pass the ball beyond one phase will be the first time.

    • Like your fellowman, Derek Herbert, you are the actual bafoon here. Commenting further on your comment is just a waste of time, as it will be impossible to do that to the real one-eyed man, but obviously having had both eyes closed. As for your compatriot, Derek Hebbert, who clearly has no understanding of the game, demeaning comments to the SA Rugby Board, the players, and the fans, not only shows complete ignorance, but basic lack of integrity, understanding and character.
      Rassie Erasmus was not only one of the best rugby players in the world, but his passion for the game was engraved in his love by going into coaching rather than administration. He has been highly success, including your precious England and/or Australia. He did not asked to be the Director of Rugby, but was asked, and as South Africa has an immense shortage of skilled administrators in sport, he accepted. But if you would like to know, where he spend most of his time is actually at grass roots level.
      Everything in the video posted was 100% correct, it is only that the world is so intend to “administer” the game that they are not prepared to improve the quality of refereeing. But as far as the two of you are concerned, the only sympathy vote you will get is from your precious England and/or Australia. Even most New Zealanders thought the standard of the referreeing in the first test, by this Australian Nic Berry, was appaling, and that the verdict was extremely harsh

      • The injustice of World Rugby is on full display. A blind eye is turned to inconsistent and poor refereeing but any criticism of referees or World Rugby itself is immediately and brutally stamped out. Shame on World Rugby.

  • I’m now thoroughly sick of the of the biased British press.Sucked up to World Rugby,Mr stephen jones etc,they are the water boys of world rugby tasked with defending the culprit WRugby and shooting the messenger Rassie Erasmus.Insteading of being progressive they fight like bulldogs and corgis over doggie treats.Ive played rugby with 1 eye since 14,played my last rugby game in 2014 at 54.Not even I with my 1 eye is as blind as them.The whole world of fans and most retired rugby players admit refs are making too many mistakes, that there are too many rules!!!They are helping to kill the game with this sucking up .Blind loyalty leaves you blind to mistakes.Make it easier for refs, no you just add more rules.No further comment from me about the sports rugby writers of the UK, they are a waste of oxygen.Maybe they still smarti g over the 2019 world cup

    • Just loved your comment, playing the game with one eye. Whilst noe related to this article, will briefly tel an amazing story of a boy when I was in matric. Was in a school 1st team that won the championship in the old Transvaal. Our left winger was a boy with only one arm, his left arm was lost in a fishing accident. However, his right arm, and legs, were like the the power of Thor. Should have been selected for the Transvaal Craven weak team, but I guess even in those days…….

      • When I was in groote schuur hospital in 1967 with my eye as a 7 year old,the bed next to me had a old guy with 1 arm,his car was adapted, he actually drove car with 1 arm.Incredibly strong and it was just amazing to see how he got along with 1 arm.Rugby refereeing has been a shambles since all the extra rules .Once they changed from amateur to professional they should have left the rules as they were.As regards the song 3 blind mice I think 2 have surfaced supporting world rugby!!!Hopefully this afternoon’s game will be well reffed