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Rassiegate: How World Rugby wants to 'protect' match officials

SPOTLIGHT: The hour-long video of South Africa’s Director of Rugby, Johan Erasmus, has had some unintended consequences.


World Rugby is planning to revisit the practice of coaches chatting to match officials before and after matches.

This eye-opener is contained in the menacing 80-page written judgement in which World Rugby revealed that they banned Erasmus for two months for his criticism of Australian referee Nic Berry.

Erasmus was also suspended from ‘all match-day activities’, including coaching, contact with match officials and media duties until September 30, 2022.

It means the world’s most famous (or infamous) water boy won’t be on the sidelines for the re-run of the 2019 World Cup Final – when England host the Boks at Twickenham on Saturday.

According to a ‘postscript’ by judicial panel Chairman Christopher Quinlan, the entire saga is a likely change to the way coaches are allowed to interact with match officials.

The fallout ignited by the Erasmus video is likely to be far bigger than anticipated.


Quilan admitted the absence of a ‘formal protocol’ governing the practice of the meetings between coaches and match officials contributed to the problems.

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World-Rugby-on-Rassie Erasmus

“It seems sensible to us that if this practise continues, it should always be regulated by a written protocol,” he said.

“Whether it is possible for that to be standardised across all competitions we rather doubt.

“However, a protocol or competition bespoke protocols would provide transparency as well as clarity as to when and in what circumstances such meetings occur; who should be present; the matters to be discussed; and the manner thereof.”


He added that formalising these protocols would “remove the match official/s from the firing line”.

“No doubt hard thought will now be given as to whether it is appropriate for match officials to be having such meetings with coaches once a series has begun.

“Another virtue of such procedure is that it would prevent match officials being ambushed and subjected to unfair and unwarranted pressure – as happened to Nic Berry in this instance.”

Communications between match officials and coaches are commonplace and routinely includes the provision of many video clips.

As was in the case of Erasmus, the clips are of decisions the coaches believe or assert the referee has got ‘wrong’, Quilan said.

“We were told such meetings have benefits for both sides.

“We readily understand why head coaches would wish to have access to match officials. We can see that match officials may wish to maintain respectful communications with coaches.

“However, it is right to observe that referees receive objective analysis from trained and experienced reviewers.”



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