Rassie Erasmus to face World Rugby misconduct hearing - but will be at third Test

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Rassie Erasmus on the pitch for South Africa - SPORTSFILE
Rassie Erasmus on the pitch for South Africa - SPORTSFILE

Rassie Erasmus will be present for the decisive third Test against the Lions with the Springboks director of rugby set to face a misconduct hearing after the series has concluded.

World Rugby last night confirmed that both Erasmus and South African Rugby will be made to answer for his scalding criticism of Nic Berry, the referee for the first Test that the Lions won 22-17. Punishments for breaching World Rugby’s Regulation 18 could range from a stadium ban to a financial fine or being blocked from providing referee feedback.

However, World Rugby have emphasised that they are in uncharted waters after Erasmus’ unprecedented hour-long attack on Berry in a video that was released last week.

It is highly unlikely that the independent hearing will be held before the third Test at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, meaning that Erasmus will be able to continue in his controversial role as water carrier as well as the Springboks’ figurehead.

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The Lions, however, did not escape censure for their criticism of the appointment of South African Marius Jonker as television match official in the series once the original official, Brendon Pickerill, pulled out. In a statement, World Rugby said: “Having conducted a full review of all the available information, World Rugby is concerned that individuals from both teams have commented on the selection and/or performance of match officials.

“World Rugby has reminded the management of both teams of the importance of this area and their obligations regarding the values of the sport. In order to protect the integrity of the sport and its values, World Rugby will also undertake a review of its Code of Conduct relating to incidents of this nature with a view to strengthening scope, rules and sanctions.”

However, only the Springboks and Erasmus will face a hearing after what World Rugby described as his “extensive and direct nature of the comments”.

In the extraordinary 62 minute video, Erasmus detailed 26 perceived errors that Berry made in South Africa’s first Test defeat. Among Erasmus’ allegations was that Berry disrespected South Africa captain Siya Kolisi, who repeated those accusations on Friday but he will be free to play in the third Test.

Siya Kolisi on the field after the second Test - PA
Siya Kolisi on the field after the second Test - PA


Erasmus had also dared World Rugby to punish him in the video even if his explanation that the video was being released in a personal capacity did not wash with World Rugby. “If this means we are going to get a fine, I will step away from the management team,” Erasmus said last week. “If this means the Springboks will be in trouble, I will say I did this in isolation.”

In their statement, World Rugby emphasised the need for match officials to be afforded respect in spite of the pressure of a Lions series.

“Match officials are the backbone of the sport, and without them there is no game,” World Rugby’s statement continued.

“World Rugby condemns any public criticism of their selection, performance or integrity which undermines their role, the well-established and trust-based coach-officials feedback process, and more importantly, the values that are at the heart of the sport.

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“As with any test series, South Africa versus the British and Irish Lions is a showcase of rugby that generates great excitement and interest, even more so at this challenging time for sport and society. It is an opportunity for both teams and their management to set a positive example and concentrate on the spectacle and a wonderful example of rugby and its values at their best.”

Whatever the outside pressure on Erasmus, the Springboks are not going to change their style despite criticism from Ian Foster. The New Zealand head coach mischievously suggested the second Test, which South Africa won 27-9, was so turgid he fell asleep watching it with both teams adopting a low risk approach relying on their opponents making mistakes.

“I watched it between 10pm and 1am last night, it put me to sleep,” Foster said. “The Lions series, the one we had here, the one over there, it’s become very tight, almost risk-free type of series, aren’t they?” 

“Teams are almost afraid to play, they are just relying on a low-risk strategy. 

“So we are seeing two teams who desperately want to win a big series playing low-risk, highly-effective rugby. Both of them are good at the close contact stuff, the close quarter fighting, the kick and chase, and the pressure game. Two teams playing a similar style, it’s a bit of a slugfest.”

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