B&I Lions skipper responds to 'passionate' Rassie rant
British and Irish Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones showed the deftness of a hot-stepping centre in dealing with the vexatious issue of Rassie Erasmus’ hour-long rant over the ‘unfair’ and ‘disrespectful’ treatment the Springboks received from match officials in the first Test.
South Africa’s Director of Rugby, Erasmus, stirred up a hornet’s nest with a spectacular 26-clip, hour-long video – which surfaced on Thursday, two days after it was initially filmed on Tuesday – in which he strongly criticised the refereeing in last Saturday’s first Test against the B&I Lions.
In the video Erasmus – who also acts as the Bok team’s water boy – highlights a litany of errors by Australian referee Nic Berry and his fellow match officials in the opening match of the three-Test series, lost 17-22 to by the Springboks.
New Zealand’s Ben O’Keeffe, who was one of the assistant referees in the first Test, will take over from Berry with the whistle – while Berry and Mathieu Raynal of France will be the assistant referees.
South African Marius Jonker, who was subjected to intense scrutiny by media utterances from B&I Lions coach Warren Gatland over his supposed bias as a South Africa, choked under the pressure and also made a number of dubious calls. He will again be the fourth match official in the second and third internationals.
Erasmus could face sanctions from World Rugby for his outspoken criticism, having accused Berry of showing a lack of respect to Springbok captain Siyamthanda Kolisi – saying Berry turned his back on the South African or dismissed him, while allowing the B&I Lions’ Welsh skipper to remain in his face, talking to him.
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Wyn Jones was not willing to be dragged into the war of words that has been raging in the public domain between Erasmus and Gatland since the start of the tour.
“To be honest I am not long back from training,” the B&I Lions skipper told a virtual media briefing on Thursday, downplaying the media storm that had erupted.
“I have heard a little bit about it, but I haven’t seen anything.
“As I am sure you are aware, I have got a bit more to focus on between the white lines and that has been my focus.”
Jones declined to comment on whether he thought Erasmus was deliberately trying to put pressure on the officials ahead of Saturday’s second Test.
“I don’t know. That is a question you will have to ask him.”
He gave the same evasive answer when asked if the video will put pressure on the officials.
“I don’t know. That is a question you will have to ask the officials.”
However, he was a bit more forthcoming when asked if a coach or any other official should question the officiating.
“It highlights the passion and the commitment that people have for the sport,” the B&I Lions captain said.
“Right or wrong, the method is not for me to comment on.
“Ultimately the sport is in a good place and hopefully it can go forward in a good place as well.”
He also dismissed the suggestion that the match officials paid more respect to the B&I Lions team than they did to Kolisi and the Boks.
“Again, it is probably a question for the officials,” Jones said, adding: “In the heat of the moment I didn’t feel like we had any advantage because a lot of the time I was standing there next to Siya.
“The outside perception I can’t really comment on.”
He also said he doubts there is now more chat, scrutiny and debate over refereeing decisions than years gone by.
“No, I don’t think so,” the skipper said, adding: “The game is changing and it does get difficult for players the way the speed of the game is going, the ball in play, and sometimes the refs have the hardest job in the game being in the middle of all that.
“They have assistants and a TMO and more than ever decisions are being focused on, but it has always been the way.
“They have always been scrutinised, it’s just probably in vogue at the minute and it has been highlighted this past week.”
Erasmus, who said the video was made in his personal capacity, could face a sanction from World Rugby.