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This might be forgotten when going through the many, many clips raised by Rassie Erasmus in an hour-long video released on Thursday on Vimeo (which is still a thing apparently), but it's worth stressing; the SA Rugby director of rugby makes some salient points. You can really see at times where he's coming from, particularly with inconsistencies.
And yet the production, which tears into referee Nic Berry and World Rugby, feels like one of the more obvious deflection tactics ahead of this Saturday's Test, attempting to take attention away from the beaten Springboks.
Erasmus wants Joel Jutge, World Rugby's head of referees, to hear his grievances, after failing to get any feedback from Saturday's Test match until Tuesday, the day South Africa named their side for the second Test.
Was this video ever meant to be made public, or was it solely for Jutge? Erasmus at times references SuperSport the South African broadcaster, referring them to what he's pointing out, then at other times suggests it's solely for Jutge's viewing.
What follows is a partly a extraordinary, occasionally comical, dissection of where South Africa were wronged in the first Test. Make yourself comfortable - there's a lot to get through. Which is why every head coach carrying out such an exercise after every Test match would be a complete disaster.
The opening - "We felt things didn’t benefit us on the field from staying quiet"
The Springboks, Erasmus suggests, watched Warren Gatland openly question the decision to appoint a South African in Marius Jonker as the TMO but kept quiet, and this then backfired against them in the Test match.
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There's a 14-minute introduction where Erasmus outlines that he wanted to speak to Berry on Sunday, but a phone call was then cancelled.
We didn’t know you can only get feedback on a Tuesday, which doesn’t make sense to me.
There's a number of key lines in this introduction, from explaining why he can be water carrier, the what's coming up in the video. And inviting the Lions to create a similar video (!)
The only person who can't be water carrier is the head coach, Jacques Nienaber. Warren wanted to make thing of my carrying water, which I understand... it's mind games and that's fine. There's nothing preventing me from carrying water.Things got a bit cluttered when the Lions moaned about officiating on the field, Faf de Klerk's tackle against the Lions in the SA 'A' game. We had in the same game lots of clips where the Lions made mistakes.When Marius Jonker was appointed as TMO, the Lions made such a fuss about that through the media. We had our meetings with you yourself Joel [Jutge] and said we want this series to be positive, the rugby must win, we don't want this negativity in South Africa which we currently have.We asked Nic Berry specifically to give us much respect on the field as South Africans as the four countries, with four captains, so many leaders in their team. We only have two, Siya Kolisi the captain and Handre Pollard the captain. We asked if only they could speak to him and the same on their side. It was communicated it would happen that way.We'll never give any official the blame for losing a match.Sunday evening we tried to set up a call with Nic Berry. We wanted to discuss things because we do our team selection on Sunday night. Before we could give the players feedback we wanted clarity, needed him to take us through that. He said he was still asleep, it was 5pm on the afternoon on a Sunday. When he woke up we asked him, sent him through the clips, spoke to him on the phone and told him 'none of this will get into the media, it's purely for the players'. I made it clear it was an important call.He came back and said he couldn't talk to me until after reviewing the game with Joel Jutge. I phoned Joel on Sunday night, he didn't answer, and the frustration boiled over as players started asking questions.On Tuesday morning, we received feedback, with two training sessions left. To get feedback on a Tuesday on things you can't change anymore because of World Rugby's protocol, we haven't worked on it before, Joel said it was how they operated in the Six Nations. We accept it and will follow it now. I'm sure people will say look at all the big mistakes the Springboks made, and that would be wonderful, foul play and offsides, it would be great because then rugby would be in trouble because rugby wouldn't really be a fair game. You should try and play within the rules and both teams should be sanctioned.
What follows is an offer to step aside for the rest of the Test series if World Rugby want him to following the release of the video.
If this causes that I’m not allowed to be water carrier that’s fine, I’ll step away, if we’re going to get a fine, I’ll step away from the management team, if this means the Springboks will get in trouble I’ll say I did this personally, because I believe in fairness, the system and two teams having an equal chance of competing in a match. Not saying the referee was a cheat at all, saying we just wanted clarity on a Sunday night, which we now have on a Tuesday, which I personally am not very convinced with [the clarity] we had from Nic Berry.I’ve had previous encounters saying things in public about referees and it normally comes back to bite you, but the Lions only comes around every 12 years and it should be fair that I’ll step away from these last two Test matches, but let the two teams have an equal chance on the field when it comes to laws, respect, the way players are treated, what is said in the pre-match coaches’ meeting with referees, how they give feedback and are seen in the media.
The clips begin
Tom Curry gets singled out early, one for his obvious late charge on Faf de Klerk, another time for entering the ruck from a side and lifting the legs of Makazole Mapimpi which wasn't penalised.
We got the directive from World Rugby that side entry and going at the lower limbs is the most dangerous thing which there currently is.
Berry deemed there was no danger in the lift, while South Africa already had an advantage.
Curry though is just a warm-up. The gripe of this video seems to be a perception in the South African camp that they're just not getting the same respect as the Lions from the officials with all their captains - Alun Wyn Jones, Stuart Hogg, Owen Farrell etc.
When Daly clearly holds back Mapimpi...
...Erasmus wants a penalty for foul play, but is told that it's not dangerous and that the play has to go back to Cheslin Kolbe's knock-on. Siya Kolisi, according to Erasmus, just isn't being heard the same as Jones.
When Siya spoke to the referee and when Alun Wyn spoke to the referee, I felt the reactions on how they treated both those players, there was a vast difference between who was taken seriously and who wasn’t,Whatever you say, that’s foul play.The explanation Nic gave me is that foul play must be dangerous, to overrule something else. I’ve looked through the law book and can’t find [that].I thought the way they listened to Siya compared to the way they listened to Alun Wyn wasn’t with the same respect that both players should have.
Next we have two seat belt tackles by Eben Etzebeth and Bongi Mbonambi which are correctly penalised. What Erasmus is unhappy with is another similar incident on Damian de Allende by the Lions which goes unpunished.
We’ve experienced those seat belt tackles are penalties, but that wasn’t refereed when they tackled us like that. We wanted some clarity which we didn’t get.
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Watson's tip tackle, and Van der Merwe's?
There seems to be universal agreement now that Hamish Watson should have been yellow carded. Erasmus notes "I’m not saying this should be a red card, but I can’t see nothing less than a yellow", which is fair enough.
His bigger issue is how his players' reactions are received by the officials. (Did I mention this comes up a lot?)
Again I’m going to talk about the respect the referee shows towards the SA players compared to the Lions, which we spoke to the referee about before asking for the same respect, you can see our players appealing and recognising this is a dangerous tackle. Nic sees it and gives advantage for that, and then calmly says there was a bit of a leg lift.
There's also a dig at Gatland for his comment about the TMO Jonker in previous week.
Warren through the media put pressure on Marius. Knowing Marius, and the laws, that should be a yellow card. On minute 63, they would only have six or seven minutes with 14 men on the field, which is the way the laws should be refereed. Nic calls it ‘just a bit of a leg lift’. Willie stays down like all the players in the world who receive a spear tackle. The whole world knows by now that should be a yellow card. You see in slow motion he lifts him past the horizontal. That’s the one where people won’t disagree with me.
You're right, Rassie.
Erasmus then pulls up a clip of Van der Merwe missed during the action, where the Lions wing comes in from the side and, as with Curry earlier, lifts the leg of Mapimpi (again, unfortunately).
This one, I can accept it’s hard for the referee to see, but it’s lifting a player’s leg and driving them into the ground. He feels there’s not enough force for it to be a penalty. Mapimpi’s coming from our side, there’s already offside lines, Van der Merwe can’t come in from that side so that’s the first offence, and then he picks up both legs and drives him into the ground. If that’s allowed then we would have loved to hear that on Sunday night, then we could have practiced that on Monday and Tuesday morning. For me, this is very dangerous.
This was picked up on mid-game by most viewers, with the Springboks given an eight-second advantage before being told the play was over, only for the Lions to then get a 24-second advantage later on. Erasmus is apoplectic and questions the officials' "mindset", which is steering right into World Rugby disciplinary territory.
How do you actually get this wrong? How do you actually decide to give the one team eight seconds advantage, and the other 20-plus seconds for a penalty. It’s something where I wonder if this is not a mindset?It’s very tough to understand. How do you explain a mistake like that?
He's right, there's no consistency there. A big timer is overlaid just to hammer home his point.
Rolling away (or not)
Here's that 'consistency' word again. It's all Erasmus is after, he claims. He highlights a penalty against the Springboks where Kwagga Smith doesn't release the ball, giving Courtney Lawes and Ali Price some backhanded praise.
All good, well done by Courtney, the nine milks it well and they get that advantage there.
He's less happy about when De Allende is trying to place the ball back and a Lions player is in the way, with Berry deeming De Allende is "placing the ball into their man".
Finally, there's another clip of the Lions not rolling away as De Klerk struggles for quick ball - as you'll often see go unpunished.
None of them are rolling away and the referee just plays on, so that’s frustrating.
By the point he gets to Elliot Daly not rolling away after Damian Willemse's impressive restart take, Erasmus has lost it.
If you think of the other incidents, there’s no attempt. He’s fully lying on our side. The ball’s out and he still didn’t roll away. Consistency’s out the window. I think previously our guys shouldn’t have been penalised.
More ruck woe
When a clip comes up of Curry in an offside position coming into a ruck, after Franco Mostert ensures a ruck is formed by getting over the ball at the breakdown, Erasmus squeezes in a pop at England head coach Eddie Jones referencing the England-Italy ruck fiasco of 2017.
Eddie Jones made a hell of a fuss about it and the law was actually changed.
Remarkably, Erasmus doesn't see the irony in making that comment in the middle of his hour-long video. That said, the gripe is fair. Curry does come in from the side and clear out a player at the legs. It's goes unpunished (spoiler: most of these incidents do).
There's a query about Ox Nche being penalised for taking out Alun Wyn Jones. Erasmus seems to think a maul has been formed when the hit comes in from Nche, but Berry thought otherwise.
The Itoje turnover penalty in the first half after Kolisi's break? That was dodgy too, apparently. Erasmus believes Itoje stays on his feet, which some have disputed, but then says...
Faf is on his feet trying to play the ball, and Itoje is trying to push the ball into the ground. We get a penalty against us which in my opinion is a cynical foul.
Then there's three examples of the Springboks winning turnovers, in Erasmus' eyes at least, but not being rewarded with penalties. Erasmus suggests there are "clear lifts" of the ball each time at the breakdowns by Kwagga, Nyakane and Etzebeth. Nothing coming. By this point we've had over 20 clips.
Offside! In front of the kicker!
Didn't you miss hearing those calls in rugby stadiums up and down the country? There's an almost comical offside decision against De Allende, which Erasmus says Berry admitted wasn't offside, adding "this isn’t close to clear and obvious."
Then he goes full nitpicking, suggesting that Luke Cowan-Dickie was offside before making a tackle. The reason for the pedantry? It's near to the posts, and could have been a kickable penalty.
No 2 made the tackle and had at least one foot close to the offside line. Compare that to Damian, it’s weird that this one wasn’t called offside.
Another potential three points goes begging when the Lions aren't picked up for being in front of the kicker. You're meant to freeze, of course. From the screenshot, it looks like Daly is offside.
This one is very frustrating because we were so warned going into the game that anyone in front of the kicker must immediately freeze… until someone puts them onside. That’s another three points in front the poles, but wasn’t penalised.
Knees on the ground
Erasmus pulls up two previous examples of players being tackled and their knees touching the ground, before they have the ball illegally ripped away. One is given against Kwagga.
Then he jumps to the last play of the game and Itoje's turnover, highlighting that at the time of the rip, Rynard Elstadt's knee has touched the ground. The timing here is nanoseconds, but Erasmus believes Itoje should have been penalised.
On all occasions he’s penalised the player for not releasing the tackled player or ripping the ball while the knee’s on the ground. But on this one unfortunately he decides it’s a good rip. Why he does that I’m not 100 percent sure because he was really good on the previous [examples].
This, more than anything, seems to be the big issue - that Kolisi wasn't being heard by the referee as much as Jones. The Wales captain is a master at commanding referees' attention. Here's what Erasmus says was discussed pre-match.
The narrative the Lions are putting out there is we don’t know the laws or respect them. Siya sat in the meeting and said he would never talk to the referee unless there was something bothering him, like AWJ with the Cheslin Kolbe knock-on.
The incident is when South Africa are awarded a scrum for a Robbie Henshaw knock-on, despite him knocking the ball forward into the hands of an offside Lions player, Van der Merwe. It should be a penalty to South Africa, but isn't awarded. Erasmus accuses Berry, extraordinarily, of practically mocking his captain, which he must know in the back of his head is going to lead to Berry getting plenty of messages from fired-up South Africans over the perceived treatment of their captain.
It’s almost like he’s having a laugh at Siya. He’s actually laughing at Siya. You can see Siya talking to him here but he’s just ignoring him. The same with the TMO. And I guess that’s where Warren Gatland and the media - and that’s why we’re out in the media this week, because we feel we got no joy from anything because they were quiet last week and we got no positive results on the field.
Best of the rest
We'll finish with two of the two bigger talking points, but here's a quick reference to a number of offences Erasmus felt were missed, starting with Furlong putting his hands on South Africa players at a dead ruck before a De Klerk box kick when Erasmus claims the officials had told South Africa to cut that out of their own game beforehand. Then, Furlong does it again.
When a ruck escalates or a dead ruck, we don’t go and pull and makes it messy. He requested that. We said it’s part of our tactics and he asked if we could change that. We went to the team and said we’re not doing that anymore. In the game, [the Lions] do the exact same right in front of him. This next one, Furlong's just jumping onto the ruck. He told us to change our beheaviour. Surely from there, he can see Furlong is jumping onto the guy onto the ground. Surely that’s the frustration.
Worth noting this one-liner, though.
If he’d told us that on Sunday night, we wouldn’t be sat here making an hour-long video if he’s picked up and the call and answered our questions. Nothing would have been over Twitter and the b— media.
There's also frustration with the Lions slowing down a quick lineout, which you'll see at least five times every game.
Now he holds the ball when Faf wants to throw it in. We all know it’s our lineout. It’s comical the respect the officials show to the SA players compared to the Lions players.
And for Etzebeth being taken out in the air at a lineout, which in fairness is dangerous.
His pants are not even at Steven Kitshoff’s head height. If this wasn’t something the referees had highlighted I wouldn’t moan about it, but we changed our way of stopping mauls because they said this was something they were going to hammer on and be strict on.
Nche's neck injury is incredibly unfortunate after how well he played in the first half in the first Test. Curry's action in the scrum come in for scrutiny.
You can’t allow a flanker to scrum onto a loosehead in a compromised position. It’s not like this isn’t in front of the referee. And they get the penalty. Ox gets injured and is out for a week or two. Berry finds a way to give the penalty to the Lions which is baffling.
Finally, Rassie wraps up with a lineout throw which is nowhere near straight from Cowan-Dickie but somehow wasn't called, almost for a touch of humour.
The Le Roux non-try
Going back a bit, Erasmus believes there wasn't enough compelling evidence to rule out Le Roux's try for him being in front of Lukanyo Am's kick, and cites Gatland's TMO comments. Again.
The way pressure was put on Marius Jonker by Warren Gatland was uncalled for. I’m pretty sure this week Warren won’t moan about Marius and won’t say a word. Last week it was all over the newspapers. As I understand here the on-field decision is try. There must be compelling evidence that there was a forward pass. Some people say it was or wasn’t, so it’s not compelling. The frustration here is it wasn’t us who appointed Marius as TMO. Are we going to moan about Marius, or was this or wasn’t this a try? According to what Nic said, it should have been much clearer and the communication should have been better. Obviously this try would have helped a lot in the game.
Kolbe in the air?
Last but not least, Kolbe lands on his back after trying to take a catch by the touchline. It's ruled he caught the ball out on the full. Erasmus believes he's played in the air, then complains about Mako Vunipola picking Kolbe up off the deck when he might be injured, which seems fair enough.
People laugh at this one, but even at primary school level in South Africa we get taught when a player lies on the ground, you leave him like that until the medics come up. You don’t touch him, you leave him in that position. For me, it’s incredible that three things in a row happen here. There was no penalty or referral for being played in the air. Secondly he landed infield and was taken out. And thirdly Vunipola pulls him up from the ground as if he’s a doll. If that was a serious neck or back injury, I don’t think he would have laughed with these quirky quotes he has in the newspaper. This shows a total lack of respect for the Springbok team.
After over an hour's worth of tape, is Erasmus right? Are the Springboks really being grossly disrespected by World Rugby? It's certainly not an original complaint and hard to believe.
This is a fascinating video at times but the delivery of it, the undermining of World Rugby's officials and the way Erasmus has gone about it have left the Springboks wide open for scrutiny. There will undoubtedly be sanctions, which Erasmus saw coming when he made the video.
If you request that I’m not involved further with this Test match, no problem. If your request I’m not a water carrier, no problem. It’s your choice.
And then he finished off with the following, said while in full Springbok kit.
If you think this was going over the top and shouldn’t go out to the media, then I did this in my personal capacity and not as part of the Springboks and I’ll withdraw myself from the Springbok management team.
All quite extraordinary.