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Erasmus responds to fears he could be in trouble with World Rugby

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Clement Mahoudeau/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Rassie Erasmus doesn’t believe he will land himself in hot water following his series of tweets commenting on clips from the recent Springboks games versus Ireland and France. South Africa were narrowly defeated in both those Autumn Nations Series matches and the director of rugby reacted by posting some footage on social media, starting with a ball kicked at a ruck that turned over possession for an Irish try and then a six-video series with action from the loss to the French.

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The posts have caused huge controversy on social media but Erasmus, who is only recently back involved with the Springboks following his lengthy matchday ban following criticism of the match officials during last year’s first Test versus the British and Irish Lions, was adamant that his latest musings weren’t criticisms of the match officials. Instead, they were merely just explanations to South African supporters on where his team was going wrong and where they needed to get better.

Erasmus wasn’t scheduled to attend Tuesday’s Springboks team announcement media briefing ahead of this Saturday’s match versus Italy in Genoa, but he made a surprise appearance alongside head coach Jacques Nienaber and he was quickly asked about his recent tweets.

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Acknowledging the presence of Erasmus and wanting to quickly tackle “the elephant in the room” given the massive social media commentary in recent days, a journalist asked Erasmus: “I guess you are there for reasons also to do with tweeting. Can we address that, your criticism of some decisions? Are you not worried that you are going to be landing in hot water again with World Rugby?”

Erasmus didn’t take offence to the query at the briefing that was being staged to discuss the four changes to the Springboks XV for the third match of their European tour next weekend. Instead, he embarked on a lengthy answer that concluded with him insisting his posts were only to explain incidents in matches to South African fans and that he wasn’t responsible if people were interpreting his comments as criticisms of the match officials.

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“You are welcome to ask that,” he began. “We have always had the thing where we have stayed stronger together. I am talking about South Africans and when we get media out there it is all over the world and we have always been really close to our fans. For us, the fact that when something goes wrong on the field and I am sure people form their own opinions and that I understand, but I think if you go and listen to the tweet, it is actually for South African supporters to understand that listen here, there is something that some guys are doing really well which we either don’t understand, maybe a player on the opposition side; obviously Cheslin (Kolbe) can’t go in that high – if he is not going to tackle the guy back he will have to go lower.

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“And I think if you go and read that tweet I think that people immediately adjust something to the narrative they want to put out there. Even in the tweets where we said with the TMO apparently not being available, we said I don’t believe that Wayne Barnes will let that go and just say listen the TMO is not available, I just can’t believe that from Wayne Barnes. That is why we said we’d no qualms with that try.

“So that is for South African people to share with them that listen here, when we pass a pass off ten metres it’s an optical illusion, it looks forward and then a short pass and the same thing doesn’t. And if we don’t learn from those things and get those things right it will never change.

“Yeah, I understand, but again I don’t tag people, I don’t say to the referees, I have never said something like that. I am saying these are the things that we must fix and if somebody doesn’t want to follow that, unfollow me or mute me but surely there are South African supporters that would like to know where we are going and where we are getting it right and where we are getting it wrong?

“And if it is the way we communicate, the way we read the game, the way we do our actions when we fall on the wrong side, those are things that we need to fix. No, it’s not having a go at the referee. If that was having a go at the referee I don’t think Wayne Barnes will make all of those bad decisions. I mean, he is the No1 in the world referee, more than 100 Test matches.

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“It’s obviously something on our side that we have to fix. Again, I think South African supporters would like to understand that – and then if people put a narrative to that that I can’t control, unfortunately.”

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