'I think Nic's a fantastic referee, a good man... he deserves better'
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has jumped to the support of Australian referee Nic Berry, who was left shattered at what he called his “character assassination” by South African director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.
The distress felt by 37-year-old Queenslander Berry was outlined in World Rugby’s written verdict on Erasmus’s misconduct, which has resulted in the governing body banning him for all rugby activities for two months – a verdict he is appealing.
Erasmus was found guilty on Wednesday by an independent committee for producing and publishing an hour-long video critique of match officials, particularly Berry, during the British & Irish Lions series.
According to details of Berry’s testimony, the official told the hearing: “The whole situation has been an extremely difficult time for my family and I.
“As a match official I understand that our performances will be heavily scrutinised, especially in such a prestigious tournament.
“However , the public attack on my integrity and character is not something that should be tolerated in any workplace.
“I considered officiating in a Lions tour comparable with that in a World Cup. The appointment is a honour which few achieve.
“However, due to the actions of Mr Erasmus, my family and I have endured a significant amount of distress and we will only have negative memories of the whole experience.
“I feel that Mr Erasmus engaged in a character assassination of me on social media. I have spent many years trying to build my reputation as an international referee and in the course of his video which was posted online, Mr Erasmus has caused it immeasurable damage.
“I feel that regardless of the outcome and any sanctions imposed, my reputation as a referee and person will forever be tarnished.”
Asked about the verdict and the punishment handed down to Erasmus, his Wallabies’ coaching rival Rennie told reporters on Thursday: “All I’ll say is that, at the time (of the criticism), it was hugely disappointing.
“I think Nic’s a fantastic referee, a good man, and so I was disappointed with how he was treated.
“As to any sentencing, I haven’t read the judgement but I felt that Nic deserves better, needs to be treated better than that. Maybe there’s more to come yet.”
The hearing report said it had accepted all of Berry’s testimony and was “impressed by his quiet dignity, humility, and the restraint he showed during his evidence”.
Erasmus, who has been ordered to apologise to Berry by World Rugby, is trying to overturn the six charges of misconduct against him that were upheld.
As well as the two-month ban, the 49-year-old is also suspended from all match-day activities, including coaching and media engagement, until September 30, 2022, while South Africa Rugby has been fined Stg 20,000 ($A37,000).
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