Whatever the outcome of Rassie Erasmus’ misconduct hearing, his hour-long video had the desired effect this past Saturday, and has rattled World Rugby’s status quo, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
During the early exchanges of the second Test, referee Ben O’Keeffe called both captains aside for a stern word after the first of many scuffles broke out between the players.
His message was clear. He looked both players in the eye. He addressed both captains by name. There was not the slightest discernible difference in the way each was treated.
It was significant, because already that interaction suggested that Erasmus’ video – which highlighted unfair treatment from the officials towards Bok captain Siya Kolisi in the first Test – had hit its mark.
As it turned out, the first half lasted for well over an hour and the match, which kicked off at 6pm, ran to nearly 8:30pm when the final whistle was blown.
That was largely because O’Keeffe and his assistants were painstakingly deliberate in every action they took, and every decision taken. After the fallout from the first Test, they wanted to ensure there were no more controversies. No more questionable decisions. No possibility of perceived unfairness.
Again, the signs were there that the Erasmus video – controversial as it may have been – had served its purpose. Indeed, it called for fairness and consistency.
As another example, let’s take the Cheslin Kolbe incident. When he took Conor Murray’s legs out from under him after chasing a high kick, the initial feeling for most was surely “that’s red”.
Such a reaction is based on many similar instances in the recent past resulting in such an outcome. But again, O’Keeffe took his time. He then effectively took the decision out of the hands of TMO Marius Jonker, the man who had become the centre of much attention before, during, and after the first Test.
After the Kolbe incident, O’Keeffe asked for the footage to be put on the big screen. He took the responsibility of the decision, and you could hear him stating that he had decided it was a yellow-card offence before moving on.
In my view, O’Keeffe got the decision spot on considering there was mitigation in that Murray’s first point of contact when landing was with his boot. But most feel Kolbe was very lucky. We will never know for sure, but perhaps once again – even subconsciously – Erasmus’ video influenced the way the incident was viewed.
The point of the matter, though, is that the hour-long video, and however it came to light, was not primarily aimed at influencing the officials, but to rather bring attention to certain inexplicable decisions, as well as perceived perceptions towards the Springboks and captain Kolisi deemed to be unacceptable.
The sluggish World Rugby feedback process was also questioned when Erasmus and SA Rugby couldn’t get immediate answers to important points that they wanted to make about the officiating immediately after the first Test.
And again, not everyone may have agreed with the nature of making such a video, but it was unmissable. World Rugby certainly noticed, and they have taken action. The officials undoubtedly noticed, and they took action already this past weekend.
The objective was achieved.
And now, whatever the consequences may be, Erasmus will surely be unfazed. He stated from the outset of the video that he was willing to take any ‘punishment’ that was meted out.
Make no mistake, his point has been made. The rugby establishment has been rattled. The status quo has been challenged.
All that remains to be seen is exactly what the outcome of the independent misconduct hearing may be, and whether World Rugby actually takes note of some of the valid points that were made, and then implement some much-needed change.