South Africa captain Siya Kolisi says Australian referee Nic Berry didn’t give him as much respect as he showed to British and Irish Lions counterpart Alun Wyn Jones in the first Test last weekend in Cape Town.
The World Cup-winning skipper’s comment on Friday backed up the initial claim by South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus on Thursday that Berry had treated Kolisi differently from Jones.
Kolisi’s comments came after Rugby Australia had jumped to the defence of its referee Berry, calling the comments from Erasmus in a long video full of grievances “unacceptable and against the spirit and values of the game.”
Speaking on the eve of Saturday’s second Test at Cape Town Stadium, Kolisi said: “I didn’t feel respected and I feel I wasn’t given a fair opportunity.”
The Springboks lost the first Test 22-17, and the performance of Berry and his fellow match officials has overshadowed the build-up all week.
The persistent attacks of Erasmus, including his extraordinary 62-minute video, have drawn adverse reaction from World Rugby and Rugby Australia.
The match officials rotate this week, with Berry running the touchline to assist New Zealand referee Ben O’Keeffe. Mathieu Raynal, of France, is the other assistant, and South African official Marius Jonker the TMO again.
“I’m looking forward to a new game and a new referee,” Kolisi said.
“I think Ben will give a fair opportunity for both captains, and that’s all we’re asking.”
Kolisi was further pressed by a journalist as to how he felt disrespected but replied that he “didn’t want to get into it.”
Springboks assistant coach Mzwandile Stick, sitting beside Kolisi, defended the captain, insisting the discussion around the officials’ performance should have been nipped in the bud by World Rugby before the series when the Lions last week were reportedly angered by Jonker’s appointment as the television match official.
The South African was a late replacement for New Zealand’s Brendon Pickerill, who could not travel because of the pandemic.
Stick suggested that calling out Erasmus for his social media analysis of the first Test defeat was a double standard, as Lions coach Warren Gatland had fumed at the lack of a neutral alternative to Pickering.
“World Rugby’s integrity was challenged by another human being when Marius Jonker was appointed as the TMO,” Stick said.
“That appointment was publicly challenged by the coach of the other team and until today, I haven’t heard any statement about him apologising for that.
“If Rassie gets into trouble for what he said on social media, the gentleman who challenged the integrity of the game when he challenged the appointment of the TMO destroyed the dignity of the series and challenged World Rugby’s integrity.”
The exchanges between the sides have only added spice to a series that the Lions could clinch on Saturday.
Earlier, Lions’ assistant coach Robin McBryde dismissed the Erasmus complaints as nothing more than a “sideshow.”
“The officials have got a tough job to do, but we were really happy with Nic Berry last Saturday. I don’t think it will be any different this week either,” said McBryde.
World Rugby said on Thursday it was asking SA Rugby about Erasmus.