Rassie Erasmus has offered to walk away from the Springboks management team for the final two Tests against the British & Irish Lions after posting an hour-long video focusing on refereeing inconsistencies from the series opener.
The SA Rugby director of rugby issued the unprecedented 62-minute monologue two days out from the second Test at Cape Town Stadium with South Africa needing victory on Saturday to keep the series alive after a 22-17 loss to the Lions last Saturday.
Erasmus, who led the Springboks to 2019 World Cup glory in Japan, stepped away from the head coach role and was succeeded by his long-time defence coach Jacques Nienaber yet the former Munster director of rugby has been the centre of attention in the home camp on this Lions tour.
He was first at the centre of an unusual Twitter spat following South Africa A’s win over the tourists in which he retweeted video clips from an anonymous account @JacoJohan highlighting Lions wrongdoing in response to Warren Gatland’s criticism of a refereeing and TMO decision to show a yellow card rather than red to scrum-half Faf de Klerk for a high hit in that game.
On Tuesday of this week, Erasmus, 48, sat next to Nienaber in an online media conference as the head coach named his team for the second Test and said he wanted to be present to answer questions about his social media activity and speculation he was behind the Jaco Johan tweets, which he denied.
Then on Thursday morning a video was posted on the vimeo platform in which the South African talks to camera for an hour, highlighting a host of officiating discrepancies from the first Test that he feels did not give the Springboks a fair chance last Saturday, rounding on the referee Nic Berry of Australia and also television match official Marius Jonker, the South African called up by World Rugby as a late replacement for the neutral official named initially.
Jonker was the TMO who recommended the de Klerk yellow in the SA A game and the late announcement of his appointment to the Tests was highlighted by Gatland, who let it be known he was “furious” with the move by World Rugby.
Gatland has appeared to get under the skin of Erasmus throughout this tour, first poking fun at the SA Rugby DoR’s role as a water carrier in the SA A game which has continued into the Test series.
Now Erasmus has suggested Gatland’s comments swayed Jonker’s decision-making the other way, highlighting the decision to disallow a Willie Le Roux try in the second half last Saturday for being in front of the kicker as he began his kick-chase en route to scoring.
"I have previously made mistakes by saying things in public about referees. And that normally comes back to bite you," Erasmus said in the video.
"But in this instance, with the Lions coming around every 12 years, I believe it should be fair that I step away from the last two Test matches to let the Springboks and the Lions have a chance on the field when it comes to laws, respect and the way players get treated."
Erasmus was aware he was risking sanction from World Rugby by his criticisms of the officials, all of whom remain in place for the remaining Tests with Australia’s Berry serving as an assistant as Ben O’Keeffe of New Zealand takes charge on Saturday while Mathieu Raynal of France takes the whistle for the third and final Test.
"I'm not sure who this is going to,” Erasmus said in his address before adding: “in my position as director of rugby, if this causes that I am not allowed to be a water carrier, that's fine. I'll step away from being a water carrier," said Erasmus in the soliloquy.
"If it means we're going to get a fine, I'll step away from the team management. If it means the Springboks will be in trouble, I'll say I did this in isolation - it's me personally who did this, not SA Rugby or the Springboks.
"I believe in fairness and in the system and that two teams must have an equal chance of competing in a match.
"I'm not saying the referee was a cheat at all. I'm just saying that we just wanted clarity on a Sunday night, which we got on a Tuesday.
“I am not very convinced with the clarity that we got from Nic Berry from this match."