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Rassie Erasmus films 20-minute video explaining social media use

By Liam Heagney
Springboks boss Rassie Erasmus

Controversial Springboks boss Rassie Erasmus has filmed a 20-minute video explaining his use of social media. The South African director of rugby was recently hit with a two-game stadium ban by World Rugby, who interpreted his tweets as sarcastic criticism of the match officials during the opening part of his team’s four-match November tour.

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Erasmus held clear-the-air talks last week in London with World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin and Phil Davies, the director of rugby, and after SA Rugby released a media statement on that meeting on the morning of last Saturday’s tour-ending game versus England, the Springboks boss soon posted two tweets.

The first posted an image of the SA Rugby statement, about which Erasmus wrote: “Thanks!! Appreciate your views and input! Lekka.” He then sent a second tweet containing a link to Vimeo, the video-hosting platform, suggesting a 15-minute chat on Wednesday.

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Video Spacer

Erasmus followed this up in midweek, stating in another message: “If we get ten or more viewers we will give it a go at 18h00 South African time.” The rugby boss got way more people online than that minuscule target and he proceeded to stay online for 20 minutes and 34 seconds in a live video filmed from an office containing, in the background, shelves stacked with folders.

He began: “I have never done this and I said it would only be 15 minutes. Hopefully, I will stick to my word and it will only be 15 minutes. Obviously, there is nothing really controversial that will be said here. It’s just a platform where for the first time I can try and speak in a relaxed way not before or after a Test match… I see there are three to four hundred people on already so I will be chatting with more than my family.

“Why would I do this? Sometimes when you do press conferences and stuff like that you don’t always get the opportunity to get the whole what you said. Sometimes the press conference gets cut into pieces… And I thought a chat like that post a tough year (would help).

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“People want to know why am I on social media. If I can just answer that one that will be a start and then a catch-up chat in a couple of weeks with maybe some other topics and I might open the messages so you can add comments. Nothing controversial, just why I and the players would be on social media.”

Erasmus started off by explaining the #strongertogether campaign that was launched when he took the job and set about reviving the lapsed fortunes of the Springboks, guiding them to World Cup glory in Japan the following year.

He then went on to explain the mechanics of a working week with the team and why social media is the reason they, unlike most of their Test-level rivals, publicly name their XV on the Tuesday of a match week after privately telling the squad the day before.

“Internally, the team must know the team as quickly as possible because of social media. It is purely to protest the players, to get focused and aligned for the Test match that happens the next Saturday.

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“We have exposure to the team 24 hours during a week, 1,400 minutes which our programme allows where we do the rugby-related stuff, the rugby-specific things… We have our programme Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday morning.

“I have sometimes seen a player leaving on a Wednesday at 12 o’clock from a brilliant training and seeing him on the Thursday evening or the Friday morning and the player is a totally different player, either too much confidence or no confidence, or something is really bothering him.

“In the beginning, I was totally against it: stay off social media, don’t follow it, all those things but eventually, you get to understand this is here to stay and social media eventually takes everything and combines it into one platform.

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“If you don’t know the narrative that is currently out there you will sometimes be surprised by what is going on with this player and why is this player rattled. It’s because they read social media… it finds its path to the person you directed it to.

“We are competing with what is the opinion of people, which is sometimes 100 per cent right, but sometimes when you are trying to give a player confidence, a goalkicker or a guy who is making his debut or a person who feels he must be in the team or a player who has been dropped and then what happens on social media if you are not on top of that.

“So I decided to join just to find out why are players leaving on a Wednesday afternoon and you see them on a Thursday evening and they are either walking on water and some guys are level headed where it doesn’t influence them but then with others you see there is a hell of a story going on out there. So that is why I joined social media.”

Erasmus then explained the importance he felt in connecting with the Springboks fans through social media and how he felt it helped people understand the human side of rugby. He concluded: “The topic was social media. Not that I am an expert. I am going to finish off by saying there are reasons why we do things,

“I hope I explained most of that and maybe we will do this again and hopefully I didn’t say something that can get me into trouble again. Thanks for tuning in. Sorry, it was 20 minutes and not 15. Maybe again next week or if I see there is some good engagement and this helps at some level maybe a little bit later or sooner. Have a lovely day.”

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