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The odd gift Manu Tuilagi gave Rassie Erasmus which still stumps him

By Ian Cameron
Manu Tuilagi of England celebrates victory with teammate Bevan Rodd (Photo by Dan Mullan - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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After the largely acrimonious fallout from the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa, Rassie Erasmus wasn’t exactly most popular figure on the global rugby scene.

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He was roundly blamed for the leaking of a 62-minute video diatribe about Nic Berry’s performance in the first Test of the series, an allegation he firmly denies.

The 49-year-old served a two months ban and is still barred from attending Tests in an official capacity for six more months. The controversy has died down but he was – and probably still is – a man that divides opinion.

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Months after the Lions tour, South Africa toured the northern hemisphere as part of the Autumn Nations Series and after their defeat to Eddie Jones’ men, two England players sent Erasmus a gift.

Joe Marler sent him a bottle of wine, an obvious token of good faith from one unorthodox individual to another. But the other present, from Manu Tuilagi, still stumps the Springboks director of rugby, months later.

“Do you think Manu Tuilagi will read this interview?” Erasmus asked journalist Nik Simon during his exclusive interview with the Daily Mail.

“After that match, Joe Marler sent me a bottle of wine. That was lekker because me and Joe Marler are the same kind of guy. We are not suit-and-tie guys. But Manu Tuilagi gave our team manager a teddy bear and asked them to pass it on to me.

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“I still don’t know why. If he was calling me a cry baby, that’s funny, he got me. If he was taking the p***, I like that. If it was sincere and it was meant for my daughters, that’s kind. I would love to know.”

The controversy around the video still dogs Erasmus, who has himself admitted he fears it will forever tarnish his name, despite the fact he is adamant that he didn’t leak the video that eviscerated Berry and his officials.

Berry said he and his family had suffered an “extremely difficult time” after Erasmus released the video which made waves on social media.

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He told a World Rugby disciplinary hearing into Erasmus’s misconduct: “My family and I have endured a significant amount of distress and we will only have negative memories of the whole experience.

“I feel that Mr Erasmus engaged in a character assassination of me on social media.

“I have spent many years trying to build my reputation as an international referee and in the course of his video which was posted online, Mr Erasmus has caused it immeasurable damage.”

Erasmus says he hates the image of him that has been promulgated in the media as a result of the debacle.

“I hate the fact that overseas people hate me. I’m actually quite a sensitive guy. People think I’m a bully. I’m not. Ask anybody that knows me. I liked it when I was known as the happy guy that people saw at the World Cup. I wish I could be known as that guy again.”

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