Rassiegate: Submissions due this week as stage set for unprecedented legal battle
Submissions are due this week ahead of what is building up to be an unprecedented legal battle between World Rugby and Rassie Erasmus and SA Rugby.
Contrary to reports in South Africa, Erasmus and SA Rugby’s misconduct hearing has not commenced and the parties involved are yet to be given official dates. RugbyPass understands rumours that it had already begun behind closed doors were met with bemusement within World Rugby.
The Springboks revealed on Thursday that the Springboks Director of Rugby did not travel with the team to Brisbane as they bid to claim back the Rugby Championship, having opted out of the tournament last year.
“Rassie has decided to remain in South Africa, for now, to allow the focus around the team to remain on the Castle Lager Rugby Championship and the team itself so that they can perform to the best of their ability on the field,” said South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber. “He will continue to play active role in our team and coaches meetings throughout the tour, and schedule permitting, he may join us later on.”
Erasmus may join the team for the latter stages, confirmed SA Rugby.
RugbyPass understands that submissions are due this week with the governing body ahead of the panel. The 48-year-old and his union faces charges relating to a breach of Regulation 18 (Misconduct and Code of Conduct) for comments made after the first Test loss to the British and Irish Lions.
World Rugby have said they are concerned with the ‘extensive and direct nature’ of his comments in the now-infamous 62-minute long video that released on social media in July, which criticised the performance of matchday referee Nic Berry and his officials.
The list of punishments for Erasmus and SA Rugby if the World Rugby misconduct charge is upheld are extensive, ranging from forfeiture of a match, fines, reprimands and more.
It is expected that Erasmus will challenge the World Rugby in what could be a Test case for how senior rugby staff behave in relation to contentious on-field decisions. Erasmus and SA Rugby – who are also charged with misconduct – have been offered significant legal assistance in the form of Marco Masotti, who heads up MVM Holdings, the company that has owned a 51 per cent stake in the Sharks since January 2021, took to social media earlier this month to announce back Erasmus and co: “I have a team of New York lawyers ready to take care of Rassie and SA Rugby. Let us put World Rugby on trial…”, tweeted Masotti on August 4th.
Erasmus has however engaged legal representation from Frikkie Erasmus, who told South African media outlet Rapport recently that the charges brought against his client are “broad” and “comprehensive.”
For their part, it is understood that World Rugby are eager to throw the book at Erasmus, whose actions were heavily criticized across the sport.
And there’s pressure on them to do so.
Critics feel Erasmus cleaning rugby’s dirty laundry on social media was a step too far and could potentially open the door to further public rebukes of referees by coaches.
“You think ‘the mark has been over-stepped here’ and worry that it becomes not just about sporting decision-making but something that might have an impact on people’s lives and potentially cause wider issues,” former Galllagher Premiership referee David Rose told RugbyPass. “There has been an erosion in the acceptance that mistakes will happen; if you have human beings involved, you’re going to have human error and being professional in any walk of life doesn’t mean you make no mistakes.”
Others have praised the maverick South African. Ex-Springboks boss Ian McIntosh praised him for confronting World Rugby with their failings.
Speaking in an interview published on iol.co.za, McIntosh claimed: “It is not for me to say whether Rassie used the correct channels but I do feel that something had to be done to gain the attention of the officials because the game has become far too complicated and a stop-start affair.
“It has been spoilt for players, coaches and the spectators. The game has become over-officiated because of too many ‘provisions’ being added each year to the laws. Instead of World Rugby disciplining Rassie, he should be commended and a committee established to revise the laws which are too many, contradictory, and in some cases, nonsensical.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now