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World Rugby bans Bok supremo Rassie Erasmus again after ref criticisms

World Rugby bans Bok supremo Rassie Erasmus again after ref criticisms
South Africa’s director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Mark R Cristino)

World Rugby has banned South Africa’s director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, for the second time in a year for his off-field antics and attacks on match officials.

South Africa’s director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, has fallen foul of World Rugby’s code of conduct for the second time in 15 months and has been banned for two matches following his social media outbursts in recent weeks.

Erasmus, who has appeared increasingly disconnected from reality with Twitter rants against match officials, thinly and patronisingly disguised as “lessons for his players” over the past two weeks, appears to be committing professional suicide.

After the Boks lost 19-16 to Ireland in Dublin and 30-26 to France in Marseille, Erasmus took to social media to highlight inconsistencies in officiating. His clips showed what he perceived to be rulings that went against the Boks, but he never showed clips where the Boks might have escaped with the rub of the green.

There is little doubt that Erasmus’s actions have brought the Springboks into disrepute. His painful whingeing on social media has become an embarrassment and it appears he is above the law at the South African Rugby Union (Saru), which has failed to rein him in.

Repeat offender

On 18 November 2021, a year ago to the day, Erasmus was suspended from all matchday activities for 10 months.

Erasmus was also banned from all rugby activities for two months after six misconduct charges were brought against him, stemming from a 62-minute video that “leaked” into the public domain in July 2021 following the first Test between the Springboks and British & Irish Lions.

The content of Erasmus’s video was embarrassing for referee Nic Berry and World Rugby. It highlighted the problems the sport faces: inconsistent officiating and a lack of consistent protocols to address issues between teams and officials.

rugby ban rassie

South African head coach Rassie Erasmus at a press conference at OR Tambo International Airport as the Springboks returned from Japan after winning the 2019 Rugby World Cup. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Str)

But his message was delivered with the subtlety of a goal-line ruck by a clearly frustrated Erasmus, who is many things, none of which is a fool.

He knew that a video of that nature in the public domain in the week before a crucial match (in this case the second Lions Test) would be the rugby equivalent of a nuclear bomb going off. It was, and it did.

There were no winners in that situation. Erasmus overstepped the mark and despite a defence that cast doubt on whether he intentionally leaked the video, there was enough circumstantial evidence for the disciplinary panel to conclude that on the balance of probabilities he did leak it.

But Erasmus made his point and should have left it there. However, he appears unable to resist the compulsion to pillory officials when the Boks lose.

A year on from the start of his first ban, Erasmus’s latest actions have also belittled Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber, who is a close friend. You can’t imagine an Eddie Jones, Jake White, Steve Hansen or any other top coach meekly playing spectator as his boss torpedoes his own side.

Two-match ban

In a statement on Thursday, World Rugby was unequivocal in its condemnation of Erasmus’s antics.

“World Rugby has reviewed the recent social media posts by SA Rugby Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus that relate to match officiating in the Autumn Nations Series,” a statement from World Rugby read.

“Match officials are the backbone of the sport and without them there is no game. World Rugby 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 that are at the heart of the sport.

“The behaviour of coaching staff and match officials [is] widely observed by fans, media and participants at every level, and such behaviours affect how the values are applied across the game. 

“In addition, under the Match Officials Communication Framework, national teams have the ability to enter into a confidential feedback process, which is critical for success in a high-performance environment.

“The success of these communications relies on direct and honest feedback which is delivered and received in a confidential way.

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“In line with the framework, World Rugby has the ability to impose a sanction where a breach has occurred. Having considered the matter, World Rugby has issued a two-match ban against Rassie Erasmus.

“Accordingly, he may not take part in any matchday activity in relation to the two upcoming Test matches that South Africa has against Italy on 19 November, 2022 and England on 26 November, 2022. The ban includes engagement with media and social media in relation to match officials.”

Whether World Rugby can stop Erasmus from posting comments and footage on social media is unlikely, and probably unlawful. It does not own or regulate the Twitter space, but Erasmus’s comments, despite what he may think, are always linked to his role at Saru.

The latest decision might also further galvanise the image of Erasmus as a martyr to his legion of followers. They believe he is on a legitimate crusade to expose rugby’s flaws and some sort of plot against the Springboks. The reality though, is that he’s undermining the Boks and rugby.

On the other side of the ledger, Erasmus is viewed as increasingly out of control and unsportsmanlike.

At the time of publishing, Saru had not commented on Erasmus’s fresh ban, or on whether it would impose further sanctions against its rogue director. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johann Olivier says:

    Rassie is now certainly the Trump of rugby. He’s an embarrassment. And, did I mention ‘whiner’? So sad.

  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    “His clips showed what he perceived to be rulings that went against the Boks, but he never showed clips where the Boks might have escaped with the rub of the green.”
    Perhaps Mr Ray you have such clips where the Books escaped with the rub of the green? Also, it’s not just Rassie. The Australians put together a video of a few years back showing how referees almost uniformly allowed Richie McCaw to get away with off-side murder around the rucks.
    Technology is available to eliminate personal prejudice in officiating – why doesn’t rugby use it?

    • - Matt says:

      Agree, the messenger is being shot. World rugby should take the message and act on it. They have a responsibility for both drafting the rules and to remove inconsistent application of these rules. Shooting the messenger is an easy option but misses the point. Go Rassie!

      • Wilhelm van Rooyen says:

        Agreed, it seems as if the refs are totally above scrutiny – whilst players’ performances are being evaluated in the media through a microscope, week in and week out. Without players there will also be no game, so why allow scrutiny of 46 players, but not the officials? What has World Rugby done to improve officiating since Rassie’s previous expose? Where can we, the people who actually pay for the entire circus, see the improvement in objectivity and fairness? Rassie should probably stop his media analyses, and some of us should stop complaining about the Boks being nailed by the refs, but man, watching a good match being ruined through dismal officiating, makes me rather go mow the lawn.

    • Lorinda Winter says:

      I agree now Rassie is being vilified because world rugby are sooo sensitive. Of course the ref makes mistakes, which is understandble because he cannot have eyes everywhere but we are living in the 21 century, where is the TMO and where are the line judges? And the break in transmission, very convenient … World rugby must get their act together they are not perfect and neither are they gods!

  • Sam Shu says:

    While it seems world rugby is opaque and the rules against public criticism seem Stalinist, its not clear that Rassie throwing his toys out of the cot improves the situation.

  • Simon Fishley says:

    Is he out of line? Probably. There are processes for addressing reffing inconsistencies but they are all super confidential and the outcomes are never public which likely explains what Rassie does this.
    Refs are human and do get things wrong but i would argue that SA is on the receiving side of negative decisions more than any other team. I’m in several online rugby forums and even other countries’ fans offer comment about appalling and blatantly biased decision making against us.

    Berry had a howler in the French game and World Rugby refuse to acknowledge.

  • Sam van Coller says:

    Erasmus is creating a mountain for the Springbok players to climb if they want to win the World Cup next year. They will be the pariahs of world rugby in the eyes of refs and administrators. It is time for SARU to terminate his contract. We have a fine group of men representing our country at the moment – they do not deserve this baggage dragging them down

  • Jo Van says:

    I support Rassie’s actions because I struggle to watch rugby on TV as a result of the fact that it is more “Refby” than rugby. To watch a blundering ref determine the outcome of a match makes the sport ridiculous and causes frustration and agony for supporters watching on TV where one can see very well when mistakes happen. It is not as painful to watch live as one does not have such close-up views of the action and one accepts the ruling of the ref. World rugby chooses to not be transparent about these problems and prefers to handle them behind closed doors, away from public scrutiny. I believe that is short-sighted and it allows the real problems around accurate officiating to persist and there is no pressure on them to consider an appeals system, which might improve the experience of everybody – the players, the spectators and the coaches. The fact that refs are human and do get it wrong at times will then be allowed to be corrected and make the outcome of matches more credible. Rassie is a whistle blower and the current trend in society is to attack whistle blowers. He should be supported and encouraged as his non-racial approach has been an example for us all! Rugby is a powerful sport that has impacted on our feeling of nationhood and it has united us in the past. It should not be allowed to become ridiculous as a result of questionable officiating.

    • Ockert Fourie says:

      I fully agree and support Rassie.
      The statement by World Rugby “Match officials are the backbone of the sport and without them there is no game” shows their ignorance and arrogance.
      Without viewers and rugby players there is no game. Referees is not above rugby. Everyone wants a fair contest and as a Springbok supporter I do not want to win a game where we were given a try that was illegally scored. The technology exist, use it, and furthermore simplify the rules. How difficult can it be?

  • Confucious Says says:

    To be honest, if you want this bickering to stop, WR should uncomplicate the game! Rugby is going the way of the NFL! More time is being spent on analysis and decision-making than on playing. Bring back raking to speed the breakdowns. If rugby is going to become so technical, the refs must be punished for not making adequate use of technology. There should also be a TMO panel who have a max 30sec to make.a decision and state the law that’s being implemented. Otherwise we will have the Aussie-type penalty milking because acting, not tries, can then win a match!

  • stan garrun Garrun says:

    Yay vote Rassie for mampara of the week!

  • Richard Bryant says:

    The reason I support Rassie is because there is a very long legacy of the Boks been blown out of world cups and other games by a situation where it appears the reffing errors were heavily biased against us. It’s been going on for years. When we go through the normal channels they pay lip service because it’s just a matter of time before it happens again. We are the world champions but treated by the world officials as if we were imbeciles. We’ll never host a World Cup again simply because we can’t print pounds or dollars even though we can run the best of tournaments. Then they poach our best players using their pounds. They also pretend they are trying to develop the game internationally but really test the smaller nations as a breeding ground where they can pick and choose our best players so they can fill their stadiums in the North.

  • Mark Holgate says:

    Yes he could be more tactful but I support Rassie who is prepared to risk his career in the hope of fairness for our Springbok rugby. We should all be backing him.

    The solution imo is to allow each coach 3 reviews like the yanks do. Had this been in use we would have won 3 more test matches this season.

  • Rob Wilson says:

    In corporate relations, we always knew that you cannot control the media. The media had a few people you needed to keep happy. Now there are hundreds of millions of media people who don’t care who is happy. I do not think that Rassie is being personal. I think he is drawing attention to the fact that the on field referee needs help. He is correct. Rugby needs to manage the use of technology (the TMO!) to assist the referee. This will drastically reduce infringements on the field and speed things up. Consider the mess the on field ref got the SA A side and Bristol Bears last night. It took so long I switched off and went to sleep. World Rugby needs to wake up to social media-Rassie does not have to post under his name-he can just provide the input to a third party who is not subject to discipline. There is no defamation going on here.

  • Geoff Woodruff says:

    Whether or not Rassie has a valid point is not the issue. The problem is that he is a prominent figure in a major sport who is busy trashing the very foundations of that sport in public. There are protocols and channels to follow and sending out tweets to deliberately embarrass officials when events are not to your liking will only serve to sour public opinion against the Boks and ultimately do us more harm than good. He is, and always has been a wonderful member of the Springbok family but right now he needs to grow up and get back to doing what he does best and leave the politics to others.

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