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The 'financial damage' submission Erasmus made at sanction hearing

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

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Rassie Erasmus opted not to address the judicial committee during the sanction hearing that resulted in his suspension this week, the Springboks director of rugby instead providing a short statement that included details on the financial damage he would suffer if he was suspended.  

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Erasmus was ultimately suspended from all rugby with immediate effect on Wednesday for a period of two months. He was also banned from any involvement on a matchday until September 30 next year, while SA Rugby must pay a fine of £20,000. Both Erasmus and SA Rugby must also apologise for their actions. 

Both sanctioned parties have since stated they will exercise their right to appeal. In the meantime, the 80-page written judgment from the hearing has provided a tantalising insight into what unfolded at the hearing where the judicial committee were invited on behalf of Springboks director Erasmus to only fine but not suspend him. 

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Freddie Burns on whether the Springboks will target England’s Maro Itoje and Marcus Smith on Saturday
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Freddie Burns on whether the Springboks will target England’s Maro Itoje and Marcus Smith on Saturday

On page 45 of the written judgment, the judicial committee outlined the evidence and submissions by Erasmus. It read: “We read and had appropriate regard to a short statement from Rassie Erasmus. He elected not to address us during the sanction hearing. 

“The statement contained no acceptance of fault, no apology or any acknowledgement of the effect on Nic Berry. Therein he said: ‘The sensitive and complicated racial component could not sufficiently be dealt with within the limited time allowed and the constraints of the written submission and I requested an indulgence to make oral submissions in supplementation’. 

“In the said statement he addressed the financial damage he would suffer if he was suspended. To that end, he provided us with the details of his performance and incentive-based, including win, bonuses. We had regard to that information.

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“In written submissions filed on his behalf (the content of which we had full regard to) it was submitted that he has an ‘unblemished career record’ exceeding 25 years and has never been charged with misconduct, a breach of World Rugby’s regulations or code of conduct nor accused of or charged with conduct or activity that brought the game into disrepute. 

“We were invited to consider his ‘passionate and emotional reaction to what he perceived to be the disrespectful treatment of the black Springbok captain, should be understood in the context of a unique, extremely sensitive and very complex South African racial landscape’. 

“We were invited to fine him. It was submitted that a suspension will ‘undoubtedly be harmful to the Springbok squad of players’. We also had appropriate regard to SARU’s submission that Rassie Erasmus should not be suspended. 

“It was submitted that such was a ‘very blunt tool, which has the potential to damage innocent parties’… In the written submissions filed on his behalf, it is said that ‘the accusations against him and the disciplinary process has caused his family immense distress and harmed his reputation significantly’. This is said to be a ‘severe punishment’ for Rassie Erasmus. With respect, it is wrong. 

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“The accusation and process are the product of his own conduct. He brought the proceedings on himself. He could have shortened them radically by accepting his misconduct. However, we do recognise what may be seen as a fall from grace for him, having led his country’s senior men’s team with such distinction including at RWC 2019.”

It added about the Springboks boss: “A striking feature of Rassie Erasmus’ evidence, and the submissions made in mitigation, is the failure to acknowledge that any part of the content of the video was abusive, insulting and/or offensive. Further, there has been no apology to Nic Berry. 

“That is a matter for Rassie Erasmus and SA Rugby. We do not punish him for that, nor for the fact he and SARU fought the case. That was their right. However, it deprives him of the mitigation an acknowledgement of fault and an apology would otherwise have afforded.”

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