Australian referee Nic Berry says he and his family have “endured a significant amount of distress” due to Rassie Erasmus’ actions during the series between the Springboks and British & Irish Lions.
Erasmus was on Wednesday evening handed a two-month suspension from all rugby activities and banned from match-day activities until September 2022 for releasing a 62-minute video criticising Berry’s performance in the first Test between the Boks and Lions in July.
The Springboks lost the first Test and in the following week Erasmus filmed the video, which was leaked on to social media.
An 80-page report from the independent committee that handled the hearing into Erasmus’ actions unpacked the testimonies and findings.
In a statement in the report, Berry shares his feelings about the viral video and its impact on both him and his family:
“Needless to say, the whole situation has been an extremely difficult time for my family and I. As a match official I understand that our performances will be heavily scrutinised, especially in such a prestigious tournament.
“However, the public attack on my integrity and character is not something that should be tolerated in any workplace.
“I considered officiating in a Lions tour comparable with that in a World Cup. The appointment is a honour which few achieve. However, due to the actions of Mr Erasmus, my family and I have endured a significant amount of distress and we will only have negative memories of the whole experience. I feel that Mr Erasmus engaged in a character assassination of me on social media.
“I have spent many years trying to build my reputation as an international referee and in the course of his video which was posted online, Mr Erasmus has caused it immeasurable damage.
“Though a small proportion of the rugby community will follow the outcome of this matter, and in the process obtain an accurate account of what really occurred, the wider rugby community will only be aware of me in the context of this incident.
“I feel that regardless of the outcome and any sanctions imposed, my reputation as a referee and person will forever be tarnished. Throughout Mr Erasmus’ video he makes unsubstantiated claims about the incidents that occurred in the 72hrs after the first Test match which I refereed.
“Throughout this whole ordeal I’ve maintained my professionalism despite being the target of an unprecedented personal attack played out in the media. The evidence attached is an accurate and detailed account of what really happened and should assist World Rugby in their judicial hearing into the matter.
“I felt that Mr Erasmus’ video brought into question my professionalism and my integrity as a match official and that there was an inference to be drawn that I was in some way cheating as an official, which is obviously completely untrue.
“My reputation throughout the rugby community has suffered immeasurably from his actions and I acknowledge that the impending investigation will likely lead to more public scrutiny and unwanted media attention.
“However, his actions are against everything our game stands for and I feel it’s important to take a stand against such behaviour.”