World Rugby’s decision to hand South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus a two-month ban from all rugby activity and an 11-month ban from match day activity has provoked some strong opinions.
Here’s how the rugby world reacted to Erasmus’s punishment for questioning referee Nic Berry’s decisions in a 62-minute video after a Test against the British and Irish Lions.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, speaking at his team annoucement press connference late Thursday, said he had not read the verdict but defended Berry.
“All I’ll say is at the time it was hugely disappointing,” said Rennie. “Nic’s a fantastic referee, a good man. I was disappointed in how he was treated – I felt Nic deserved better than that.”
Garrin Lambley, writing for The South African, predicted the news will light a fire under the Springboks when they face England this weekend in their final Test of the year.
“[T]he Springboks have just received an extra shot in the arm to go out and smash their opponents at Twickenham,” Lambley wrote, saying World Rugby “came down like a ton of bricks” on Erasmus.
He added: “Throw in the fact SA Rugby are already smarting after the Springboks were overlooked this week for the World Rugby Player of the Year award AND the fact Saturday’s match is the first time the two sides will do battle since the 2019 Rugby World Cup final – and it’s clear why things could get ugly this weekend!”
Reporting the news for The Guardian, Gerard Meagher wrote that “Erasmus’s reputation has been shredded”.
He added: “Pending appeal, the verdict from World Rugby draws a line under a sorry episode that the governing body has taken almost four months to rule on.”
Daniel Schofield, writing in The Telegraph, said “Erasmus’ reputation lies in tatters after he was banned from all rugby activity for two months for his “premeditated” and “egregious” attack on referee Nic Berry.”
“Just over two years ago, South Africa were the feelgood story of world rugby,” Schofield wrote.
“The poignant sight of Siya Kolisi, the boy whose childhood toy was a brick in the poverty-stricken township of Zwide, lifting the World Cup as the Springboks first black captain provided a startling message of hope for the Rainbow Nation.
“Their rugby was not the prettiest, but there was a lot to love about the Springboks.
“All that goodwill built among neutrals has now been burnt to ashes. Erasmus the statesman became Erasmus the common thug when he released his now infamous video hit job on referee Nic Berry.
“The independent misconduct committee clearly shows that Erasmus threatened to release the video if Berry did not hold a meeting with him. Blackmail in other words. Even after receiving the feedback he requested from Berry, the video was released anyway, causing “immeasurable damage” to the Australian referee’s reputation.”
Arguing that a paranoid mindset had overtaken Springboks fans following the Lions tour, Schofield added: “This should serve as a wake-up call. Unfortunately little will change in Erasmus’ standing among the South African rugby public.
“If a fish rots from the head then it is clear that it is Erasmus, the director of rugby, chief waterboy and puppetmaster, who is driving much of this agenda.
“At no point in his disciplinary hearing does he express any contrition or regret about his actions. If it helped the Springboks win the Lions series, then so be it, never mind an innocent official and all notions of respect were thrown under the bus.
“If you expect Jurie Roux, the South African Rugby Union chief executive, to take a hard line against Erasmus then you do not know who really runs South African rugby. ”
Meanwhile, SuperSport‘s Brendan Nel suggested “the timing of the decision – three days before the test against England, and almost three weeks after the hearing may well become a source of debate, especially with the game on Saturday being a repeat of the 2019 World Cup final.”
Predictably, South African writer Mark Keohane had a different view to most on proceedings, accusing World Rugby of bigotry and bias.
“Forget the attack on Rassie Erasmus for a moment and digest what World Rugby’s paid for consultant independents ruled against Springbok captain Siya Kolisi for stating he felt disrespected when asked the question if he felt disrespected for the way in which Australian referee Nic Berry treated him in the 1st Test between the British & Irish Lions and Springboks in Cape Town,” Keohan wrote.
“World Rugby has accepted an ‘independent committee’s’ recommendation to ban Rassie Erasmus from all things rugby for two months and from any interaction with the Boks till September, 2022. It has also agreed that Siya Kolisi was wrong in telling his truth.
“Nic Berry, who got 26 decisions wrong in 35 minutes of ball in play, continues to officiate in Test matches.
The prejudice, the bigotry and the obvious bias.
“Was World Rugby not watching what was going on in English cricket this week?
“In a week when all of English cricket is being shamed and disgraced for inherent racism that the racists can’t even recognise is racist behaviour, World Rugby’s very white and very northern based white leadership, led by the former British & Irish Lions and England captain Bill Beaumont seconded and merited a finding to be delivered publicly three days before the world champion Springboks happened to play England at Twickenham, in a match all of England rugby have describe as the biggest of the year.
“The timing is obviously predictable. The bias and prejudice is as obvious and, in this one moment of absolute white supremacist stupidity, World Rugby has shown itself to be an old boys club that will continue to promote prejudice and racism. The club must be cancelled forever.”