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The England message about 'preserving the brand of the Springboks'

By PA
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Matt Proudfoot has explained that England satisfied with the established channels for clarifying officiating decisions as they prepare to face a South Africa side who enter Saturday’s showdown without director of rugby Rassie Erasmus. For the second successive year, Erasmus will have no matchday involvement with the Springboks at Twickenham after receiving a two-game ban for publishing a series of sarcastic tweets criticising referees.

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Wayne Barnes, who oversaw South Africa’s defeat by France on November 12, received abuse on social media as a result of Erasmus’ comments. The mastermind of the Springboks’ 2019 World Cup triumph has only just returned from a year-long suspension for releasing a one-hour video critiquing Australian referee Nick Berry during last year’s Lions tour.

His conduct has drawn a stinging rebuke from 2007 World Cup-winning captain John Smit, who said: “It’s hard to defend him. It’s made us, as a rugby team, so easy to dislike.” England forwards coach Proudfoot, who was part of Erasmus’ staff until being recruited by Eddie Jones at the end of 2019, believes that one of the most esteemed posts in the global game comes with an obligation attached.

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“The Springboks brand is a brand designed to bring hope to the country,” Proudfoot said. “As South African custodians, the role is to preserve the brand of the Springboks in a country where rugby is as feverish as it is. When I lived in South Africa I was a proud South Africa supporter and that is what the brand of the Springbok means – and that is what it should be.”

Proudfoot insisted that England are happy with their level of contact with World Rugby’s head of match officials Joel Jutge. “World Rugby has been great in the way it has communicated to us. We’ve got a process that we follow. It’s really constructive,” Proudfoot said. “We have a very clear line of communication to Joel Jutge. I sent him clips after the game on Sunday night and he replied to me first thing on Monday morning.

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“There is a clear line of communication if you want to deal with something that you want clarification on, particularly in a week that you can give it to your players and train it. It’s productive for us because we get the right information and we can utilise that information.

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“For us, it’s about affecting decisions on the field by exhibiting the right behaviours. There are a lot of interpretations of the laws, so we would rather get the right interpretation from World Rugby. That’s why we follow the process.”

Jacques Nienaber will oversee the Springboks on matchday in a role that he has grown accustomed to because of Erasmus’ bans. “I know how that team functions and they are flexible enough. They have been through it before and they handled it well,” Proudfoot said.

“Jacques is a smooth operator, a very intelligent man and he works incredibly hard. He is a highly competent coach who has done it at the highest level for a very long time. He deserves respect.”

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