VIDEO: Bok coach would like RassieGate facts to be made public
REACTION: The South African team and management have been skilful in their attempts to tap dance their way around the RassieGate saga, working in an environment shrouded in secrecy.
Rassie Erasmus, South Africa’s Director of Rugby, has been given a two-game matchday ban by World Rugby – following his criticism on social media of refereeing decisions during the ongoing year-end Tests.
World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin confirmed this week the feedback process on match officials must remain “confidential” in order that “candid” conversations could take place in private and not be played out on social media.
“We have to make sure we protect them [the referees] in that sense,” Gilpin told BBC’s Rugby Union Daily Podcast.
Gilpin also said he wants to establish a ‘proper line of communication’ between the global governing body and the South African Rugby Union.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber, addressing a media briefing after naming his team for the final year-end Test, said they would like to focus on the game.
“There will be a lot of questions about the ban,” the coach and Erasmus’ close confidant said, adding: “I don’t want to go into those things.
“I would like to focus on the rugby.”
(Article continues below video of Jacques Nienaber interview …)
He said the team remains a tight-knit unit, with everybody in the Bok camp knowing “exactly” what is going on.
“We are open and transparent,” Nienaber said about the Erasmus saga.
He said not all the facts have been made public and said it was “disappointing” that only some facts have been revealed.
“The public only has [access to] those facts,” the coach said, adding: “They form and give opinions based on those facts.
“It is quite sad and if all the facts are out there [in the public domain] people will form quite a different opinion.”
Nienaber said he does not want to point fingers at anyone and doesn’t want to get involved in the public debate.
“For us, as a group – players, management and staff members within the Springbok team – we know about everything, we are transparent, we share everything with the players and we know all the facts.
“For us, the main thing is to focus on the game and prepare our players mentally for a big Test.”
Nienaber said “confidentiality” issues prevent them from revealing the facts around RassieGate.
“We are not allowed to talk about it, especially with the media,” the coach said, adding: “It is stuff we can’t discuss.”
He dismissed the notion that the ‘silence’ will harm the team’s reputation and said they can’t control the “narratives” being put out in the public domain.
“Whatever people think about us, they think about us.”
Nienaber admitted that, despite his two-match ban, Erasmus is still involved in the build-up to Saturday’s Test against England.
“During the week, he can interact [with the team] as normal,” the coach said.
“He is banned from [being involved in the] matchday.
“The roles and responsibilities that he fulfils during matchday we absorb as we did for a year.”
As a result of his latest ban, Erasmus missed the Springboks’ 63-21 win over Italy in Genoa last weekend and the 50-year-old, who guided South Africa to 2019 World Cup glory, won’t be at Twickenham for Saturday’s match against England.
Erasmus has only recently completed a stadium ban following a World Rugby suspension for his infamous hour-long video criticising referee Nic Berry’s performance in the first Test between South Africa and the British and Irish Lions last year.
Erasmus said accusations that his videos had led to threats against experienced English referee Barnes were “completely unfounded”.
But there is a growing belief among officials that Erasmus’s comments have encouraged angry supporters to make vitriolic posts of their own towards referees and their families.
#⃣REACTION: RassieGate, or rather the social media firestorm created by South Africa’s Director of Rugby @RassieRugby, could soon settle down #Rugby 🏉#RugbyUnion🌍
— rugby365.com (@rugby365com) November 22, 2022