Rassie Erasmus has reiterated that he did not leak the controversial video during the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour that sparked the ire of World Rugby and led to his suspension.
Erasmus was speaking exclusively to the Daily Mail, in an interview that looks back on last year’s dramatic Lions tour of South Africa.
SA Rugby’s director of rugby was suspended from all rugby for two months last November and may not attend a rugby match at any level until 30 September after an independent committee deemed the video to have broken World Rugby’s code of conduct.
The video, which was leaked on social media on 29 July, featured Erasmus pointing out errors made by Australian referee Nic Berry during the first Test between the Springboks and British & Irish Lions. How exactly the video made its way onto social media remains a mystery as Erasmus has consistently denied leaking it onto Twitter.
During the interview with the Daily Mail, Erasmus once again said that he did not leak the video and revealed the impact the subsequent fallout has had on him and his family.
“People think I leaked that video. I didn’t. Who leaks something like that? Why would I screw up my whole career to do that? I’ve got twin girls, 18 years old, who are at school and they hear other parents telling them how their dad had f***** it all up,” Erasmus told the Daily Mail.
“My mum is at an old-age home and they’re showing her articles saying, ‘Rassie’s lost it, he’s got depression, he’s drunk.’ They think those things because they are indoctrinated that I leaked that video. I want to tell the world that, swearing on my youngest child’s life, I did not leak that video.
“Many people have already made up their mind. How do you change people’s perception when World Rugby have found me guilty and banned me for 12 months? I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I just want them to know what really happened.”
In retelling the whole saga, Erasmus explained that he tried to contact Berry on the Sunday after the first Test, but could not set up a meeting and instead sent the referee separate clips of decisions he wanted clarity on.
However, Erasmus said he was frustrated with the lack of feedback from Berry and then decided to film the video, which he only sent to the relevant parties, including World Rugby head of referees Joel Jutge and World Rugby director of rugby Joe Schmidt.
“We tried again to engage but we were unsuccessful so I decided the only way to get clarity on the decisions was to send this voiceover video that the whole rugby world has now seen. I often send videos after the match. It is not unusual for me. I did it at the 2019 World Cup and it was all fine.
“It’s a good way to explain and communicate things that require clarification. Joel came back to me and said, ‘Great work, you’ve got competent people there, we picked up the same things in our review.’ I went back to the players and said, ‘We’re OK, we’ll have a great chance on Saturday.’ Point made. Move on.
“So why would I make this one public when I don’t make any of the others public? I only sent it to Joel and Joe at World Rugby, the ref, my CEO who was tour director, our head coach and my players. I submitted the video link to the restricted group using Vimeo, which is secure and safe.
“It was not possible for anyone to even search for the video on any search engine without the link. I have been using this platform for ages and there has never been a breach of confidentiality. If I wanted to leak it, there were many more effective ways to do it. Out of those I sent it to, only Joel and Joe were not in South Africa.
“I looked at the viewing history and eight of the first 35 views were in Australia. How? Why on earth would I leak it to guys in Australia? It comes out and suddenly I look like the villain. It just doesn’t make sense.
“Listen, the mistake I made was not putting a password on the link. I didn’t think it was necessary. I compounded that by not warning that it was confidential. So I accept and agree with World Rugby’s finding that a public leak was almost inevitable.
“I have to live with that and I unconditionally accept their verdict and the sanction imposed. I won’t challenge or criticise that in any way. But I repeat to you, I am not the person who leaked that video.”
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