A man with more plans than an architect, the willingness of Rassie Erasmus to sacrifice himself in what many view as a brave tirade against hapless World Rugby can’t be taken at face value, according to ZELIM NEL.
The SA Rugby director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus is many things but stupid ain’t one of them. Having built his career on a dogged work ethic, Erasmus is relentless in scanning the undulating rugby landscape and every line in the tome of laws for a competitive advantage.
He salvaged the Boks from their darkest period to win the 2019 Rugby World Cup and you probably don’t need reminding about the famous light show at Free State Stadium during his time with the Cheetahs.
At the Stormers, Erasmus implemented masterful tactics, enjoying remarkable success with an overachieving tight five and then, as the WP director of rugby, found loopholes to parachute Saracens hooker Schalk Brits in at No 8 to mitigate the injury absence of Duane Vermeulen and Siya Kolisi from the 2011 Super Rugby semi-final against the Crusaders.
The Stormers lost that match 29-10 and, six months later, Erasmus was no longer based at Newlands. The events of the past couple of days suggest he may again be headed for the exit.
With the possible exception of winning a world championship, there is no career achievement he would covet more than winning a series against the British & Irish Lions. And yet he chose to roast the officiating of Australian referee Nic Berry in the first Test in a public-facing video that he must have known would leave World Rugby with little choice but to take punitive action.
What material benefit is there to be gained from rallying Bok supporters against the game’s governing body, and throwing shade on the three men who will officiate the remaining two Tests, at the expense of the man who is so central to Bok performances that he calls the plays from the touchline?
Moreover, much of Erasmus’ justification for the controversial video is based on what must surely be faux outrage at judgement calls he would have seen go both ways hundreds of times in his 15-year professional coaching career.
He rightly points out several instances where it’s difficult to explain how the officials made the wrong call, but Erasmus has been around for long enough to know the Lions could counter his video with a breakdown of calls and non-calls that should have gone their way.
It makes no sense that a strategist of Erasmus’ pedigree is betting his job, the credibility of SA Rugby, the integrity of the sport and a rare shot at the Lions on giving World Rugby the middle finger over bad calls. Especially after a match where, according to him, the Lions were deserved winners.
Something is off.
If Erasmus is getting himself suspended from this series, and possibly fired from his job, it won’t be because he’s angry with the standard of officiating.
Photo: Steve Haag Sports