Rassie Erasmus’ hour-long video is sure to divide opinions, but one way or another he has thrown down the gauntlet to World Rugby and officials. The response will be telling, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
After just one Test between the Springboks and British & Irish Lions, there is an off-field controversy that is sure to reverberate through the rugby establishment.
Since the Boks’ defeat by the Lions on Saturday, Erasmus has taken to social media, and then fronted up at a media conference, to explain some of the frustrations about officiating inconsistencies and World Rugby’s referee review process.
That was just the tip of the iceberg, though.
On Thursday, an unprecedented video came to light, with Erasmus sitting front and centre as he highlighted a host of officiating discrepancies in detail, including instances where he feels officials showed the South Africans a lack of respect.
In no uncertain terms, he has called out World Rugby and those who should be ‘in charge’ of the enforcement of the game’s laws.
Whatever the repercussions of making this video, Erasmus has said he is willing to accept them and even walk away from the Bok management, all in the name of establishing fairness and clarity over officiating questions.
The reaction to Erasmus opting to create a video of this nature has been mixed, understandably. In many ways it is out of character, and it is without a doubt unprecedented in a modern-day rugby environment where cliched soundbites are far more commonplace than such a public damnation of the rugby institution.
There is perhaps no better way to describe this course of action beyond suggesting that Erasmus has clearly grown utterly gatvol.
He wants the rule of law to take precedence over the interpretations of officials, which open the door for human error. He wants answers about certain decisions from this past weekend that simply do make sense. He wants to cut through the platitudes and openly address the seeming perceptions around the Springboks being a ‘dirty’ team.
Erasmus has made his move in emphatic fashion. It’s a cause he clearly feels is worth fighting for, regardless of the consequences.
And now, the ball has been firmly placed back in the court of World Rugby.
For so long coaches have avoided publicly addressing officiating issues for fear of the generally stern repercussions from World Rugby.
Erasmus has flipped the script. He’s posed some pointed questions that World Rugby surely cannot just turn a blind eye to.
Yet, the response, if any, will be fascinating. Even if the matter is addressed behind closed doors, there will surely be a ripple effect across world rugby circles.
Erasmus has thrown some serious grenades, and in turn suggested he is more than willing to bear the brunt of any return fire in order to uphold what he clearly feels is a matter of principle.
Some may disagree with the way he has gone about it, while others may feel it’s a sideshow that has taken some of the attention away from the very important on-field rugby matter at hand, but the gauntlet has been thrown down.
What exactly will World Rugby do? How will the officials respond –even subconsciously – this weekend? What will the reaction from the Lions camp be?
These are all questions that should be answered in the coming days, and only time will tell whether Erasmus’ extraordinary video will trigger the desired process of introspection and change from World Rugby.