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Erasmus quashes Twitter rumour and says Lions compromised 'integrity of the game'

By PA

Trending on RugbyPass

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Rassie Erasmus has accused the British and Irish Lions of compromising “the integrity of the game” by questioning Marius Jonker’s officiating role in Saturday’s Test series opener.

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Jonker acted as Television Match Official (TMO) as the Lions prevailed 22-17 in Cape Town, with the South African officiating over his compatriot Springboks.

The Lions had aired concerns ahead of the contest, fearing Jonker’s ability to maintain neutrality: though the Boks were the ones left ruing refereeing decisions in their first-Test defeat.

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South Africa rugby director Erasmus suggested the Lions’ airing of worries over Jonker did not “sit well” with the Springboks camp, raising tensions still further ahead of Saturday’s second Test.

Erasmus also defended his use of Twitter to highlight Springboks’ grievances with last weekend’s refereeing, insisting he is not behind the Jaco Johan account with which he has interacted on social media.

“In the past we’ve found that when we talk in the media too much it normally backfires on us,” said Erasmus.

“Warren talked last week about Marius Jonker. Warren is a great guy, I’ll tell you straight up, I always enjoy his company, he’s a good man. But it was weird for me that people would question Marius’ integrity.

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“Say this weekend, Ben O’Keefe is a New Zealander and Warren is also a New Zealander, we would never say that. It wouldn’t sit well. The whole integrity of the game would be questioned, and we would never do that.

“I was baffled, when Marius was appointed as the TMO. I’m actually very good friends, close, close friends with Marius; I know him really well so I actually made a point not to speak to him before that match. Because I felt it was such a tough thing for him to do.

“But I did feel when he was mentioned because he’s South African, TMOing for the South Africa team, that didn’t sit well with me to be honest with you.”

Asked if micro-analysing refereeing calls on Twitter would constitute a breach of the integrity of rugby, Erasmus agreed – then quickly insisted he had not strayed too far online.

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“If somebody goes and micro-analyses every decision that’s not been taken, I think that’s awful, you can’t do that,” said Erasmus. “The referee only has one pair of eyes.

“But I think if you analyse the things that he’s supposed to see, I think you’re then actually spot-on with the integrity of the game.”

South Africa made three changes for Saturday’s second Test against the Lions, with Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe and Jasper Wiese all starting in the pack.

The Lions turned a 12-3 half-time deficit on its head in spectacular style in the first Test, winning the second half 19-5 to stun the reigning world champions on home turf.

South Africa were denied tries for Willie Le Roux and Damian De Allende, with Erasmus later tweeting a clutch of clipped footage to raise incidents that left the Springbok management frustrated over officiating calls.

Erasmus interacted with one Twitter user named Jaco Johan, leading to suggestions the Boks boss had created the account himself.

The South Africa rugby director joined Tuesday’s Springboks press conference specifically to set the record straight, saying: “That’s actually why I’m here: no I’m actually not Jaco Johan, I’m Rassie Erasmus.

“I actually follow Jaco Johan, he’s a big supporter of us. He’s been feeding me some really good clips for a while now, things that I’ve actually used in the past.

“He’s a very big supporter, a really funny guy and I quite enjoy the things that he does.

“I think I just retweeted two or three things I thought were accurate.

“And I tweeted twice just for a simple reason: as director of rugby the medical department is part of our department.

“I thought the way Cheslin Kolbe was picked off the ground could have been a serious injury.

“We teach our primary school children from any age or level that you leave a player as he is there, because it is dangerous.

“We wouldn’t like our Springbok players this Saturday to go and pick up every Lions player who is on their back.

“Otherwise I just thought the other tweet was, the Lions really deserved to win, they have gone through the same protocols as us, they are far away from home.

“So it was only those two tweets, and then obviously I did retweet a few things that I thought were spot-on. When something makes sense to me I like to retweet it.”

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Erasmus quashes Twitter rumour and says Lions compromised 'integrity of the game'

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