Erasmus accuses France of ‘simulation’ tactics as heat builds ahead of Saint-Denis showdown
Rassie Erasmus shelved diplomacy as he accused France of using ‘simulation’ in games to influence matches, upping the ante for Sunday’s Rugby World Cup quarterfinal.
Springbok director of rugby Rassie Erasmus was at his passive-aggressive best in his main media appearance before Sunday’s Rugby World Cup (RWC) quarterfinal against hosts France on Tuesday.
Erasmus gave a masterclass in praising France in one breath, calling them “intelligent and steady”, and then, virtually in the next breath, accusing them of “simulating” incidents.
There is no doubt both teams are under severe pressure for obvious but different reasons. France, as the hosts, are desperate to stay in their home tournament.
The Boks, as defending champions, are trying to create history by becoming the first team to win the RWC four times and the second back-to-back champions.
Someone is going to leave Saint-Denis in the early hours of Monday morning unhappy.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Rugby World Cup 2023
The Springboks know they will be in an almighty battle at Stade de France on Sunday night. Not only do they have to overcome a very good French team, they have to ensure that referee Ben O’Keeffe stays as neutral as possible while dealing with a hostile and very partisan crowd.
“I think if we want to achieve something great, it will never be in ideal circumstances,” Erasmus said.
“We’re definitely up against it, not just on the defensive side … it’s the crowd and the improvement that France has shown the last four years.
“What Fabien [coach Fabien Galthié] has done with the team, not just with Shaun [Edwards – defence coach], but with every department makes this one of our biggest challenges.
“He’s definitely brought a matureness to this French team. They don’t have high emotions and low emotions, it’s just a steady, brainy, intelligent team.”
High praise, indeed, but almost immediately, Erasmus pointed out that France aren’t beneath simulation and trying to influence the referee.
“The French do not play a reckless game where they are on the edge of being too physical with high hits,” Erasmus said.
“But what I think they do well is when they get hit close to the high [tackle] line, they really show that to the referee. They do simulate sometimes a little bit, which is clever, you know.
“Sometimes, when the referee comes, they go down or, you know, the TV [replays] doesn’t work at that specific time [in reference to last year’s match between the sides in Marseille when the big screen suspiciously stopped working when the referee wanted to review a crucial call against France].
“I think they’re very clever at that … they’re very good at that.”
Ejected from sideline
Erasmus also revealed that he was ejected from the sideline before South Africa’s opening match of the tournament against Scotland last month.
He was set to sit with reserves as coach from the sidelines, but a World Cup match commissioner removed him.
“A very nice match commissioner, I’m sure of his name, came to me and said I couldn’t sit there,” Erasmus explained. “I replied that I didn’t want to cause trouble, but I’ve sat there in all the other matches.
“He said to me there was an addendum to the participation agreement that stopped me from sitting there. I really didn’t know. He said he didn’t know either until that day.”
That led to Erasmus’ move to the coach’s box where the flashing light system consequently debuted at the World Cup.
Team naming delay
In another unusual situation, the Springboks will name their team only on Friday, just over 48 hours before the match.
In the six years Erasmus and head coach Jacques Nienaber have been involved with the team, they have always named it early in the week. This is a deviation from their usual approach.
“The decision to delay the team naming is without a doubt tactical,” Erasmus answered candidly.
“We have been mixing and matching for the last year and making sure that in almost every single position we have two almost equally good players.
“In some cases, we are not even sure which one is the best, so we’re keeping our options open for a seven-one, six-two or five-three split [between forwards and backs on the bench].
“With both Handre [Pollard] and Manie [Libbok] being available, and Lukhanyo [Am] fully fit, we have sort of made up our minds.
“We want to see what the French team looks like too. That might also have an influence on us going seven-one or six-two.” DM