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Woodward takes another pop at Erasmus in his latest Lions column

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Clive Woodward has fired back at Rassie Erasmus, declaring that the behaviour of Lions boss Warren Gatland has been statesmanlike in comparison to the hot and bothered antics of the Springboks director of rugby whose team are 1-0 down in the Test series following last Saturday’s loss in Cape Town. 


Writing in the Daily Mail, Woodward initially had Erasmus in his crosshairs due to the seemingly worrying dynamic in his relationship with rookie South African head coach Jacques Nienaber, who was the team’s defence coach at the 2019 World Cup before stepping up to take on the task of coaching the team on the premise that this would free-up director Erasmus to look after the whole of rugby in South Africa. 

Rather than taking a backwards step and allowing full control to Nienaber, as suggested by Woodward, Erasmus has remained a hands-on presence in recent months and he had a pop at the 2003 World Cup-winning coach after the Springboks team for the second Test was named on Tuesday.

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Rassie Erasmus explains his antics on Twitter
Video Spacer
Rassie Erasmus explains his antics on Twitter

“I don’t know if ‘Sir’ is so important in South Africa as it is in England. That is just his opinion and myself and Jacques are great mates,” insisted Erasmus. “I am the water carrier. Jacques is higher than me in the rank. We have always worked together since the military in 1990.

“You look at Saturday: in minute 71 we score a try that is pulled back and if it was not people would be saying the relationship is perfect. So I wouldn’t listen to too much of Clive Woodward. He doesn’t matter to me.”

Woodward has since written another Sportsmail column, making a withering comparison between the conduct of Erasmus and Gatland while assessing the three changes the Lions boss has made to his starting XV. “While Rassie Erasmus has been getting all hot and bothered on Twitter, the Lions have been concentrating on getting their most important selection of the tour correct,” said the ex-England boss.


“Erasmus is proving a distraction for South Africa while Warren Gatland has been statesmanlike as he prepares a squad looking to close out the series. Neither side produced their A-game last week – not for the full 80 minutes – so I am not surprised the Lions have made a few tweaks. 

“The old adage about not changing a winning team is tempting, but not when you are convinced a few changes can improve the performance. The Lions can improve considerably on last week and Gatland, with all his experience, will know that. He won’t be fooled by the feel-good factor of a famous win.”

The Lions have left out Elliot Daly, Ali Price and Rory Sutherland in place of Chris Harris, Conor Murray and Mako Vunipola, alterations Woodward approves of. “The three changes in starting personnel for the Lions all make sense and have a clear logic,” he continued. 

“The one part of the Boks game that was in full working order was sending big Damian de Allende crashing through the midfield. There will be much more of that this week and Harris is probably better equipped to defuse that threat.


“Murray at his best – and I’m thinking of the Murray who guided Ireland to a comfortable win over England in the last Six Nations game – is a master of taking the sting out of a high-octane game and delivering the killer blow when needed.

“Possibly the biggest bonus for the Lions was the re-emergence of Mako Vunipola, who seemed to get his mojo back when he came off the bench in the second half… it is no surprise that Gatland has recalled a player he has always liked.”


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