Water boy Rassie WILL be running with the Boks
South Africa taunted the British and Irish Lions on the eve of the first Test, publicly stating that Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus will continue his ‘water boy’ role at the Cape Town Stadium.
Erasmus, head coach of the World Cup-winning Boks in 2019, was replaced as the team’s chief mentor by Jacques Nienaber in January 2020.
However, he was back in an on-field role when the SA ‘A’ team beat the B&I Lions 17-13 last Wednesday – delivering messages directly to the players, rather than through other assistants.
His water boy role caused a major stir, with B&I Lions coach Warren Gatland at pains to express his dismay over the Bok tactics.
He suggested Erasmus was acting as an on-field coach, in contradiction to World Rugby laws.
“The thing is, if you are the water boy, running onto the pitch, you have to make sure you are carrying water,” Gatland told a media briefing.
“You don’t run onto the pitch giving messages and stuff without carrying the water.
“My advice to him is: ‘Make sure you are carrying water’ the next time he does that.”
Gatland was joined by Alain Rolland – World Rugby’s former Head of Match Officials – in his criticism of Erasmus’ new role.
The Irish-born Rolland told the UK-based Daily Mail Erasmus should not be allowed to act as a water boy.
“He is the head coach in everything but name and the Springboks exploiting this loophole doesn’t sit comfortably with me,” the former refereeing boss said.
“The regulations state that head coaches are not allowed in the technical zone,” Rolland added.
However, the Springboks were standing their ground and made it clear there is nothing wrong with what the SA Rugby boss is doing.
“Rassie will be running the water tomorrow [Saturday],” was the curt answer of assistant coach Mzwandile Stick – when the British media again stirred the pot over the role of the SA Director of Rugby in the Bok squad.
“That is his role now in the team.
“Jacques Nienaber is the head coach.
“He [Erasmus] will be there, running around, bringing water on the field to the players.
“We, as the Springboks, are happy with that,” Stick added.
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* In another twist in the escalating war of words ahead of the opening Test a former Test referee told AFP that B&I Lions’ criticism of South Africa’s Marius Jonker being the TV match official for the three-match series is “blatant intimidation”.
Jonker stepped into the role after original choice Brendon Pickerill from New Zealand was unable to travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
English newspapers reported that the B&I Lions coach, Gatland, was furious that Jonker had been chosen, believing a neutral should be used for the clash with world champions South Africa in Cape Town on Saturday.
“They have put Marius in a very difficult position should a controversial incident occur. To me this is blatant intimidation, putting the TMO in a no-win situation,” said the former match official.
Speaking on condition of anonymity as he is not an official spokesman, the referee added that “the decision to use Marius was made by World Rugby, not South Africa”.
“Marius was a first-class referee and is now an equally good TMO. Of course, he makes some debatable decisions, every official does.”
* Additional reporting by AFP