Rassie Erasmus is poised to continue in his role as South Africa’s director of rugby for the decisive third Test of the British & Irish Lions series despite World Rugby finally announcing disciplinary proceedings against him for misconduct on Monday night.
World Rugby has confirmed that Erasmus, and the South Africa union, will face a disciplinary hearing after an hour-long video emerged last week in which he picks apart Nic Berry’s refereeing performance in the first Test – won 22-17 by the Lions. It is understood, however, that the hearing is highly likely to take place after the deciding Test on Saturday, after the Springboks levelled the series last weekend, leaving Erasmus free to continue his duties including acting as a water carrier.
World Rugby also expressed its concern at comments made by the Lions, after Warren Gatland expressed his dismay that the South African Marius Jonker had been appointed as the TMO for the series. Initially New Zealand’s Brendon Pickerill was due to fulfil the role but withdrew because of travel complications. Gatland’s frustration centred on World Rugby’s lack of contingency options beyond a home appointment.
Erasmus faces the prospect of a fine or suspension – and sanctions even include the cancellation of a match result – according to World Rugby regulations but given his hearing is likely to take place after the series has been completed, any action will almost certainly not affect the result.
“Match officials are the backbone of the sport, and without them there is no game,” the World Rugby statement read. “World Rugby condemns any public criticism of their selection, performance or integrity which undermines their role, the well-established and trust-based coach-officials feedback process, and more importantly the values that are at the heart of the sport.
“Having conducted a full review of all the available information, World Rugby is concerned that individuals from both teams have commented on the selection and/or performance of match officials. However, the extensive and direct nature of the comments made by Rassie Erasmus within a video address, in particular, meets the threshold to be considered a breach of World Rugby [regulations] and will now be considered by an independent disciplinary panel.”
World Rugby has been criticised for how slow it has been to act over Erasmus with Gatland urging the governing body to intervene last Saturday – following the Springboks’ 27-9 triumph in the second Test – after Rugby Australia had issued a strong condemnation of South Africa’s 2019 World Cup-winning coach.
When Erasmus’s video emerged last week, he even preempted being stood down by World Rugby. He said: “Not saying the referee was a cheat at all, saying we just wanted clarity … which I personally am not very convinced we had from Nic Berry.”
He also claimed that the South Africa captain Siya Kolisi was shown a lack of respect by Berry, compared with how he dealt with the Lions skipper Alun Wyn Jones. “When Siya spoke to the referee and when Alun Wyn spoke to the referee … there was a vast difference between who was taken seriously and who wasn’t,” Erasmus said.
“It shows the difference in attitude towards the Springboks and the Lions. I am not saying [it was] cheating but the narrative [was] imprinted that we are more into foul play and dangerous and reckless play than the Lions.”