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'World Rugby should be cancelled' - SA media's angry reaction to Erasmus' ban

By Kim Ekin
Press Association

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South Africa’s rugby media have been reacting to the controversial punishment handed down to Springboks Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus over his online behaviour in July – many circling the wagons and defending the maverick coach.

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Erasmus was found guilty of misconduct by an independent committee for his hour-long video critique of match officials, particularly Australian referee Nic Berry, during the British & Irish Lions series – but he says he will appeal against the verdict.

Erasmus, who coached the Springboks to the 2019 Rugby World Cup title, has been banned from all rugby activity for two months after six charges of misconduct against him were upheld, World Rugby announced on Wednesday.

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He’s also suspended from all match-day activities, including coaching and media engagement, until September 30, 2022 while South Africa Rugby has been fined £20,000, World Rugby said.

Erasmus, who was also told he must apologise to the officials he criticised, has indicated he will appeal the verdict, as will SA Rugby.

While the response in the Northern Hemisphere has largely been critical of Erasmus and supportive of World Rugby’s sanction, some of South Africa’s media have rowed in behind the 49-year-old.

Respected South African journalist Brendan Nel wrote on Twitter: “It will be high-fives and drinks all round at World Rugby now that they’ve thrown the book at Rassie. But in SA all they’ve done is gone and made him a martyr. Timing is also a bit suspect, but hey…”

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Meanwhile, outspoken SA pundit Mark Keohane has even accused World Rugby of being racist in their dealings in the matter. In an article titled ‘World Rugby’s racists nail Siya for speaking up’, the notoriously fiery commentator lashed out at World Rugby.

“A white coach stands up for his black captain against a white referee and World Rugby fines the black captain and tries to take the white coach out of the game with an immediate ban,” wrote Keohane. “The bigots at World Rugby should be cancelled.”

“In a week when all of English cricket is being shamed and disgraced for inherent racism that the racists can’t even recognise is racist behaviour, World Rugby’s very white and very northern based white leadership, led by the former British & Irish Lions and England captain Bill Beaumont seconded and merited a finding to be delivered publicly three days before the world champion Springboks happened to play England at Twickenham, in a match all of England rugby have describe as the biggest of the year.”

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One South African outlet believes it is Berry that needs to make the apology to Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi and not the other way around. Kolisi accused Berry of disrepecting him during the game, an accusation that Berry strenuously denied when given his testimony before the World Rugby disciplinary panel.

IOL’s Ashfak Mohamed wrote: “…the least Berry could do is to also publicly apologise to Kolisi for the way he treated him, and to Erasmus and the Boks for the mistakes he made during the game, which certainly played a role in South Africa’s 22-17 defeat.”

Craig Lewis writing in The South African suggests that the ban isn’t really as meaningful or severe as some have made out, pointing out that Erasmus will effectively get a much-needed break and will have time to ‘plot’ his return to Test rugby.

“Considering the two-month suspension will be served during an ‘off season’ for the Springboks, and over the festive period, you’d imagine that Erasmus might secretly rather welcome a ‘vacation’ of sorts over the next two months.”

“It’s also not yet clear exactly how World Rugby will monitor what Erasmus does or doesn’t do in the privacy of his own home. In his quiet time, he could surely plot, plan and prepare for his return to the ‘office’ as director of rugby in mid-January.”

– with AAP

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