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'How the f**k in Australia and UK?': Rassie reaction to video leak

By Liam Heagney

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Common to five of the six charges brought against Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus by World Rugby was that he “published or permitted to be published” or “published or caused to be published” the infamous 62-minute video critiquing the first Lions Test performance of the match officials last July. 

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Erasmus was adamant that he wasn’t responsible for the video becoming public knowledge and available for anyone to watch on the Vimeo platform and the 80-page written judgment on the hearing provided a fascinating insight into the chronology of the video going viral and of various correspondence involving the Springboks director that particular week.  

In appendix two of the written judgment, which starts on page 61, it was stated that Erasmus recorded the video at around noon on July 27 in Cape Town, three days after the Springboks had been beaten in the opening match of the three-game series versus the Lions.   

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It then outlined that the “Erasmus video source code shows upload at 19:00 (time log 13.00 EST which is 19:00 Cape Town). The Erasmus video was uploaded without any privacy setting, meaning it could be viewed by anyone who had a link to the video.”

What Erasmus did next at 7.05am on Wednesday, July 28, was to email the video to five people – referee Nic Berry, World Rugby’s Joe Schmidt and Joel Jutge, Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber and SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.  

It was sent with the following message from Erasmus: “Hi Guys. I send this link in my personal capacity and not as director of rugby of SA Rugby. To be honest I am really a bit lost for words on what to say to the Springbok players or management. Please have a look at the video when you click on the link. I think the video will summarise my opinion and frustration at how things were handled pre/during/post the match. I want to reiterate the respect I have for all copied in on this email, but I am also very disappointed about how things unfolded on the field. 

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“I would fully understand if you don’t agree with my view and opinions and will respect that. I will also send this link to all the players in the current Springbok squad and obviously to the coaches. I just personally think that we were not treated with the same respect which the BIL players and coaches received. 

“You are welcome to comment or reply on the video. I am confident you will probably disagree on most. If you don’t reply I would fully understand as this is a personal email and not in my role as director of rugby or water carrier. 

“My only wish is that both teams are treated equally and with the same respect for the last 2 test matches. Please communicate directly with Jacques Nienaber (copied in) our head coach going forward. Thanks for your time. Rassie” 

Shortly after sending that email, Erasmus then circulated the video to a WhatsApp group titled ‘Test 2 SA v BIL’ comprising SA Rugby coaches and players. That was at 7.27am. “The WhatsApp information revealed the identities of the persons in this group are Lindsay Weyer, Andy Edwards, Anuerin, Bongi, Daa… However, in evidence, Mr Erasmus said the recipients comprised the numbered 40.

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“Mr Erasmus posted a screenshot of the email at 66 above with the following comment: ‘No rush to watch, but just to make sure you guys know what is happening behind the scenes to keep the contest fair’. Ras” 

The developing situation then moved on to July 28 and WhatsApp messages between Erasmus and Russel Belter, the director of WILDCAM Limited, who filmed the Erasmus video and posted it to Vimeo: “Erasmus: ‘Have you got ten views already?’

“Belter replies with a screenshot showing 31 views and the text ’21 views since this morning’. Belter sends a further screenshot of analytics showing views in South Africa (41), Australia (8), United Kingdom (3), France (2), United States (0). (Total 54) 

“Erasmus replies, ‘How the f**k in Australia and UK?’ Belter says ‘no idea, maybe the refs share your mail’. Erasmus says, ‘Keep me informed please, mate’.”

The written judgement went on to state that Vimeo data on July 28 showed there were 131 views in South Africa, ten views in Australia, five views in the United Kingdom, and two views in France. This was further broken down to show in Australia, ten views in Brisbane, Queensland; in the United Kingdom, two views in Bristol, two views in Reading, and one view in Palmers Green; and in France, two views in Cahors.”

The next day, July 29, Erasmus screenshotted a graph showing video analytics. “Vimeo data including a graph showing a blue line with 45k views on July 29.”

In its findings, the judicial committee remarked about the video: “It was uploaded to the Vimeo platform, which is a public site. While it is possible to password-protect videos uploaded to that site, this video was not password protected nor was there any other privacy setting. However, the unchallenged evidence from Russel Belter was that there was no way to access this video without the specific link.”

The committee added with regard to the July 28 WhatsApp exchanges between Erasmus and Belter that “it includes an initial request for views and ends with a request to be kept informed. Surprise that it had travelled so far as quickly (Australia and the UK) is not inconsistent with publication. We note Rassie Erasmus did not then ask for it be taken down or password protected.”

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