Rassie Erasmus banned from ‘matchday activities’ for 10 months by World Rugby
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Erasmus engaged in conduct or activity that may impair public confidence in the integrity and good character of Match Official(s).
- 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.
“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.
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