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Lions latest on Erasmus rant and what they make of Ben O'Keeffe

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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Lions pair Robin McBryde and Stuart Hogg have refused to add fuel to the raging fire ignited by Rassie Erasmus, the touring team’s assistant coach and full-back taking it in turns to insist they haven’t watched any of the riveting 26-clip, 62-minute attack by the Springboks director of rugby on the standard of refereeing in last weekend’s first Test. The Lions duo also gave their assessment on this Saturday’s referee Ben O’Keeffe. 


The Lions and the Springboks head into their rematch in Cape Town with a cloud hanging over the series after Erasmus broke rank and went public with an incendiary attack on Nic Berry, last Saturday’s referee who will be a touch judge this time around.  

A World Rugby investigation has now been launched into the nature of the comments and neither McBryde nor Hogg wanted to court the controversy by giving their tuppence worth on the extraordinary drama surrounding the Springboks boss.  

Video Spacer

Rassie Erasmus’ spectacular 26-clip, hour-long criticism of the first Test officials
Video Spacer
Rassie Erasmus’ spectacular 26-clip, hour-long criticism of the first Test officials

“No, so I hope you have got a better second question,” responded McBryde when asked on Friday morning if he had watched any of the fascinating Erasmus footage. “That is up to World Rugby really. It’s not up to me to comment on that,” he added about possible sanctions.

Hogg said: “We haven’t watched it at all, we haven’t seen any footage of it. It is flying around on social media and stuff but we have just been concentrating on ourselves. You can keep poking the bear, but I ain’t going to jump onto this. The only thing I am focusing on is tomorrow [Saturday]. I know it is not the answer you want, but I have no interest in getting involved in this stuff.”

With Kiwi O’Keeffe on the whistle for the second Test, the Lions had a meeting on Thursday with the officials and they were left satisfied by what they heard despite the criticisms of Erasmus. “We had a good meeting with the referees yesterday [Thursday] and as Ben O’Keeffe said himself, he said ‘listen, we are aware there is a lot of stuff out there on social media etc but it is not going to affect anything’. That is just a sideshow, to be honest,” reckoned McBryde.


“We had a positive discussion with the referees. Everyone realises they are in a tough place, they have a tough job to do but we were really happy with Nic Berry last Saturday and I don’t think it will be any different this weekend either.

“He is professional enough, we are all professional enough. If I was on social media, if I want to go and find things I would be able to find them but I don’t do it, I’m not on social media. That is just a different world to me. It’s there, but why go looking for it? It’s just that it has been highlighted this week, it has been brought to everyone’s attention but you always know it is there so get on with it.”  

Lions full-back Hogg is an O’Keeffe fan. “For me, in the short time I have been Scotland captain, Ben O’Keeffe has been one of the best referees I have had to deal with. He almost coaches you around the field. We ask questions and he is very, very calm in his answers. He is good at communicating and that is the reason a large majority of his games when he is involved are allowed to flow, they are allowed to get on with it. 

“He helped me massively in the couple of games we had when I was leading the side. Everybody is entitled to their opinion on referees but they are the ones that run the game and for me, they have a huge amount of respect from us as players. I’d hate to do the job if I am honest but, as I say, Ben O’Keeffe has been one of the best referees I have had the opportunity to deal with as captain.”


That is not to say McBryde believes everything is hunky-dory with how referees are getting treated, the Leinster assistant explaining how a recent law trial in the Rainbow Cup perplexed him. “They were trialling the laws of being able to challenge decisions on the field with the captain.

“My own personal view was that it brought out that element of scenes that we don’t like to see where you are openly challenging decisions by the referee. It is not really my cup of tea. Traditionally rugby has prided itself on being able to rise above that, show respect to the officials, no backchat etc. 

“Right from a very young age players are taught that you can’t speak back to the referee so hopefully that will continue to be honest with you. But like I said we had a very positive meeting with the three officials yesterday and are just looking forward to the game on Saturday.”  


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