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Nigel Owens makes salient point amid bitter lead-in to second Test

By Ian Cameron
Nigel Owens awaiting a TMO decision

Nigel Owens has reminded fans not to forget the ‘core value’ of rugby after a particularly sour and acrimonious build-up to the second Test between the Springboks and the British & Irish Lions in Cape Town.

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There’s been widespread bitterness, barbs and back-and-forths between coaches, players, pundits and fans this week, largely after Springbok Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, highlighted what he perceived as the poor refereeing of Nic Berry in the first Test.

While off-field dramas are not uncommon on Lions tours – think Justin Harrison and Austin Healey in 2001; the Brian O’Driscoll spear tackle in 2005; the Schalk Burger gouge and general Springbok aggression in 2009; or the Gatland clown nose saga in 2017 – this weeks’ bickering has taken its own, uniquely bizarre route.

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Jason Robinson speaks to RugbyPass:
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Jason Robinson speaks to RugbyPass:

Unlike previous tours where newspapers were the arenas of choice, this summer’s war of words has played out largely on social media, where Erasmus’ has had a direct route to market with his grievances. Likewise, his critics have enjoyed the same ability to hit straight back, digitally.

It’s all been very 2021.

Maybe the sourest note struck has been the suggestion that Nic Berry was disrespectful to Springbok captain Siya Kolisi. While the other points raised by Erasmus seemed like fair dinkum criticisms of Berry’s refereeing, the suggestion that he was treating Kolisi differently felt like a line in the sand was being crossed.

Now Nigel Owens, who’s been commentating on the matches for Sky Sports, has chipped in with a timely and refreshing reminder for the sport, suggesting fans should not forget that the core value of the sport is ‘respect’.

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“Even with all the pressures of test match rugby,” Tweeted Owens. “We must not forget to enjoy the occasion & appreciate how much of a privilege and honour it is to be part of it. Please remember rugby’s core value of respect, we all have a part to play in upholding it. Good luck all involved.”

It struck a far more convivial note after a sour week for the sport.

Of course if the Springboks do win the second Test, it could put a very different sheen on the Rassie’s antics.

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