The British & Irish Lions will stick to using official channels if they have any in-game issues with referees, assistant coach Steve Tandy said as the tourists reacted to more social media posts from Rassie Erasmus.
Erasmus, South Africa’s director of rugby had initially used his Twitter account 10 days ago to reply, via Irish Examiner Sport, to Warren Gatland’s remarks about refereeing consistency after Faf de Klerk escaped with a yellow card for a high tackle in South Africa A’s defeat of the Lions that week.
On Monday, the former Munster boss was back on social media in the wake of the Springboks’ first Test loss to the Lions on Saturday, posting footage of what he described as “reckless and dangerous” play by Mako Vunipola in picking up a prone Cheslin Kolbe after the wing had fallen following an aerial challenge with Ali Price.
“Cheslin is obviously played in the air and clearly not direct into touch!!” Erasmus tweeted. “More importantly for youngsters watching this clip!!!! Please never move or touch an injured player on the ground, it’s reckless and dangerous!”
Lions defence coach Tandy was asked on Monday about the tweets and said he had only heard about them before commenting: “Ultimately it's his viewpoint. We thought the officials did a really good job at the weekend and if there's anything we need to bring up we'll go through the appropriate channels.”
Tandy added: “It’s a tough job and I know everyone moans around certain decisions. There’s always frustration, and we get it as coaches. But if you can keep that, because it is a tough job out there for the officials, if we can keep to the proper channels, I think that is probably the best way around that because it’s a tough job for the players, the coaches, and it’s definitely tough for the referees too.”
Erasmus’s tweets came a day after he had retweeted a post from an anonymous user named Jaco Johan showing some “questionable calls” by the first Test match officials against the world champions.
Tandy was asked if the “reckless and dangerous” comment had been overly emotive.
“We have just got to look at ourselves and what we do, at the end of the day we have got to do our talking on the field and how we go about things.
“Rassie’s comments are his own comments and for us it is just about focussing on what we are and what we need to tidy up and making sure we are nice and clean about how we go about things.”
Vunipola, who faced the media online after Tandy’s press conference, was also asked about the “reckless” comment and said: “What do I remember? I remember trying to get the ball in but I saw that he’d gone down. I guess it’s one of those things, in the heat of the moment, you react how you would normally. He seemed to be all right, he played on in the game, so it wasn’t that reckless, was it?"
Asked later about the same incident the replacement loosehead prop said: “Yeah, I guess if he was really hurt then it was a bit reckless, but I just felt like the collision wasn’t that bad. I saw that people were putting it up (on social media) and mentioning it.
“We were behind at the time and wanted to get some tempo in the game so I wanted to get the ball off him.
“If I did hurt him then I do apologise but as I mentioned, in the heat of the moment, you just react as you would naturally.”
Vunipola was a late addition to the Lions bench after original starter Wyn Jones was ruled out with a minor shoulder injury, with Rory Sutherland promoted to start at loosehead. Tandy said fellow Welshman Jones was now doubtful for this Saturday’s second Test and also addressed fly-half Dan Biggar’s second-half Head Injury Assessment and said fellow number 10 Finn Russell was back in the mix for selection having recovered from a small tear in his Achilles tendon. Head coach Gatland will name his team on Tuesday morning.
“Biggs is just going through the return to play protocols. He was good in the changing room and he's started those now. Finn is back in training this week. Wyn Jones has a minor shoulder injury and will probably be doubtful for the Test match. Those are the only concerns we have.
“We'll have a debate tonight in and around selection. We'll talk through the game and probably focus more on where we can get better as a team going into the second Test. We'll have a little bit of a review. There were lots of good performances and lots of areas we can improve on going into the second Test. We'll probably debate selection a little more tonight.”