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Berry email reveals he agreed with Erasmus on 17 of the 36 clips

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Wednesday’s publication of the full 80-page written judgment in the verdict of the Rassie Erasmus and SA Rugby misconduct hearing included email correspondence between first Lions Test referee Nic Berry and the Springboks director of rugby on the 36 clips that were sent post-game to the match official for review. 

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The clips that Erasmus wanted feedback on from the Australian eventually featured in the infamous 62-minute video that leaked out in advance of the second Test last July, a match in which Berry was an assistant referee.

This video eventually resulted in Wednesday’s misconduct hearing verdict banning Erasmus from all rugby for two months and banning him from any involvement on a matchday until September 30 next year. SA Rugby must also pay a fine of £20,000, while Erasmus and SA Rugby must also apologise for their actions. 

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That video was made by the Springboks director of rugby on July 27, seemingly the day after he had received a clip by clip response from Berry on the pieces of the play the South African boss wanted to be reviewed.  

In the email sent from Berry on July 26 at 23:22 to Erasmus, which also copied in World Rugby referees boss Joel Jutge and Springboks assistant coach Felix Jones, the referee agreed with the Springboks director regarding 17 of the 36 clips. 

The email from Berry was rather cordial. It opened: “Evening Rassie. See below my comments to your footage. As per my previous email, I look forward to working positively with you for the rest of the series. Nic.” There then followed a clip by clip review from Berry in which he reviewed the onfield decisions that had been taken in the first Test match that was win by the Lions (the answers in which the referee agreed with Erasmus are in bold):

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Clip 1: I don’t feel this has enough force to warrant a YC.

Clip 2: I don’t believe this to be foul play.

Clip 3: Only dangerous foul play would result in the knock-on being cancelled.

Clip 4: This is the same incident as clip 3. See above comments regarding dangerous foul play.

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Clip 5: Initial contact by Green #4 is on the shoulder of Red #12. The PK is against Green #5. Replay shows his arm making contact with the head of Red #12. The force is minimal and not clear and obvious.

Clip 6: Low degree of force to the head of the ball carrier. PK sufficient.

Clip 7: Green #12 lowers body height into contact and Red makes contact across the shoulder. There is no evidence of head or neck contact.

Clip 8: Agree. This should have been reviewed by the onfield team because of the driving action by Red #20.

Clip 9: Same incident. See above comments.

Clip 10: Agree. Side entry by Red 11. Should be PK to Green.

Clip 11: Agree. I called this advantage over too soon after Green #15 broke through. I should have gone back for the PK.

Clip 12: Agree.

Clip 13: We have a low tolerance for players falling on the wrong side.

Clip 14: Agree. Should be PK advantage. 

Clip 15: Agree. Same as above.

Clip 16: The ball is immediately available after the kick challenge so I play through. This is different to the previous two examples.

Clip 17: Agree. Red #6 went straight to ground. 

Clip 18: Not clear to me. No tackle has been made and it’s not yet a ruck.

Clip 19: Red #4 is legal. Green #1 tackles Red #5 off the ball so should be PK to Red.

Clip 20: It’s irrelevant as I was already playing advantage for an earlier infringement.

Clip 21: No clear lift of the ball.

Clip 22: Live I felt he played at the ball late and didn’t lift the ball initially but on review he is legal.

Clip 23: Green #4 came onto his elbows so I called him off. He responded quickly so played through. The reverse angle footage shows this clearly.

Clip 24: Agree. Green #12 is onside. It’s a disappointing call.

Clip 25: Disagree. Red make it back to the offside line.

Clip 26: Agree.

Clip 27: Strip consistency. In the first two examples are ball is stripped after the tackle is completed. The strip by Red #4 is simultaneous with the knee hitting the ground.

Clip 28: Are you asking for a PK here? 

Clip 29: Yes, Red #3 should not lean on the ruck like this. Joel will speak to the Lions about this and the next example. 

Clip 30: See above comments regarding the same player.

Clip 31: Agree. The wording should have been better. It needed to be clear and obvious to overturn my on-field decision of a try.

Clip 32: Agree. The lineout should be where Green took it out and not where the ball was kicked.

Clip 33: Agree. Red #4 grabs the ball and doesn’t allow Green #9 to go quickly. 

Clip 34: Timing is marginal. No PK here. 

Clip 35: Agree I got this wrong. Red #7 shouldn’t slide up on your LH. 

Clip 36: I disagree. Green #4 got a hand to the ball in the air knocking it forward.” 

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