The Springboks’ director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, has aimed a pot shot at the Lions ahead of the looming Test series by questioning the legality of Owen Farrell’s tackle technique via social media.
Erasmus has posted video clips on Twitter highlighting two Farrell tackles during the Lions defeat to South Africa A last Wednesday, clearly irked by Warren Gatland’s post-match criticism of a reckless high challenge by Faf de Klerk which he felt could have seen the scrum-half sent off.
Gatland has subsequently been calling for consistency from referees, prompting Erasmus to respond by posting a clip of Farrell leading with his shoulder in a tackle on Leicester’s back-row forward Jasper Wiese. “While you at it please get clarity on this also !!” read the caption.
Erasmus then posted a second video of Farrell grabbing De Klerk high and spinning his opponent around. The accompanying message read: “If there is time maybe also get absolute clarity and alignment on this one please, I know it’s way after the whistle, but let’s just align and get clarity to be sure.”
It is not the first time Erasmus has queried Farrell’s tackle technique. Back in the autumn of 2018, Farrell went unpunished following a shoulder charge on André Esterhuizen during England’s 12-11 victory over the Springboks. The following week a video was posted of Erasmus apparently teaching his players to make neck high tackles in training.
It has been clear for a while that the rival camps are not entirely in accord, with Erasmus having been frustrated by the Lions’ refusal to drop their scheduled fixture against the Stormers and play a second match against SA ‘A’ this weekend. Gatland’s response was suitably terse. “I don’t see it as our role to prepare them for the Test series.”
The South African head coach Jacques Nienaber, nel frattempo, has indicated he may yet select Siya Kolisi for the opening Test, despite the Springbok captain’s lack of recent training in the wake of a positive Covid Test. Kolisi is again unavailable for the SA ‘A’ team’s final warm-up game against the Bulls, which will be played as a curtain-raiser to the Lions-Stormers fixture.
The Lions attack coach Gregor Townsend has also urged his players to go out and grab a Test spot in the final provincial fixture of the tour, describing it as “a massive game for everyone” in terms of selection for the first Test. “This is the last chance for players to put their hands up. We don’t have to remind them, they know it’s a big opportunity…and ultimately it’s them who have to take them. If players grab them and put in a performance we believe can help us win that first Test, they’ll be in a strong position.”