Vunipola on Kolbe: 'It wasn't that reckless was it?'
The simmering war of words between the South African and British and Irish Lions camp simply won’t calm down.
On a day that a social media storm erupted over missed and dodgy calls by match officials in the first Test between the Springboks and B&I Lions, the tourists were bombarded with media questions that they and accused of “reckless” and “dangerous” behaviour.
The B&I Lions won the first Test at the Cape Town Stadium 22-17, following an impressive come-from-behind effort in the three-Test series opener.
However, Monday’s media briefings focussed mainly on the social media storm created by South Africa’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus.
Erasmus highlighted an incident involving replacement prop Mako Vunipola, which he described as “reckless and dangerous” play.
“Cheslin is obviously played in the air and clearly not direct into touch!! More importantly for youngsters watching this clip!!!!” Erasmus tweeted.
“Please never move or touch an injured player on the ground, it’s reckless and dangerous!” Erasmus added.
Erasmus, known to use social media as a tool to air his views, over the weekend also reacted to a tweet from a person calling himself Jaco Johan, who posted a video of several “questionable calls” by the officials against the Boks.
As part of the retweet, Erasmus adds: “Thanks. This is rugby – sometimes calls go for you and other times they don’t“.
And from his personal account, Erasmus also congratulated the B&I Lions: “No excuses this side!! You are far away from home, families and going through the same tough COVID protocols like we do!! Congrats and well deserved !!!”
However, it is the Kolbe incident that attracted most of the attention and Vunipola did not escape the media scrutiny.
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Cheslin is obviously played in the air and clearly not direct into touch!!More importantly for youngsters watching this clip!!!! Please never move or touch an injured player on the ground, its reckless and dangerous! Leave this to the 🏥 🙏🏼@WorldRugby @Springboks @lionsofficial pic.twitter.com/lEcp5L4PBf
— Rassie Erasmus (@RassieRugby) July 26, 2021
Vunipola, however, hit back by saying that Kolbe appeared to be unharmed following contact with Ali Price.
The veteran prop said his recollection of the incident is him trying to get the ball back in play.
“I saw that he had gone down,” Vunipola said, adding: “It is one of those things, in the heat of the moment you react how you would normally.
“He seemed to be alright. He played on in the game.
“It wasn’t that reckless was it?”
Stopping short of suggesting Kolbe was trying to milk the incident in which B&I Lions scrumhalf Ali Price appeared to tackle him in the air.
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“I guess if he was really hurt then it was a bit reckless, but I just felt like the collision wasn’t that bad,” Vunipola said.
“I saw that people were putting it up [on social media] and mentioning it.
“We were behind at the time and I wanted to get some tempo in the game so I wanted to get the ball off him.
“If I did hurt him then I do apologise, but in the heat of the moment, you just react as you would naturally.
“He seemed to be all right, he played on in the game, so it wasn’t that reckless, was it?”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Lions assistant coach Steve Tandy said Erasmus should rather take his complaints to officials.
“We thought the officials did a good job at the weekend and if there is anything we need to bring up we will go through the appropriate channels,” Tandy stressed.
“We worry about what we do and do our talking on the field.
“The comments of Rassie are his, while we focus on what we need to fix to make sure we are nice and clean about how we go about things.”