Rassie, never surrender to World Rugby’s attempts to bully and bury you. South Africa stands with you, writes Mark Keohane.
Rassie Erasmus goes on trial on the 24th August for a range of charges, among them bringing the game into disrepute and speaking out publicly against the diabolical officiating in the Springboks first Test against the British & Irish Lions.
Erasmus’s disciplinary hearing is a World Rugby hearing. It is an internal process and you can be guaranteed the old boys club will find Erasmus guilty of every charge.
It won’t be a victory but the start of a legal war that the game of rugby needs to once and for all kill off this notion that the match officials are more important than the players to the future of the game.
Players and coaches have always been held accountable for their performance. They either get praised, get axed, cash in or lose contracts because of the application of their ability to their chosen profession.
Professional rugby officials have never similarly been held accountable, consistently protected by the amateur and archaic notion that the referee’s performance and that of the match officials is beyond reproach and that every player, coach and supporter should just be grateful that the match officials were there in time for kick-off.
What antiquated nonsense in a professional environment, in which matches and tournaments and player and coaching careers are influenced because of inferior, questionable and incompetent officiating.
Rugby Australia’s CEO Andy Marinos, of Stormers infamy in leading a strike on the morning of the team’s home Super Rugby semi-final against the Highlanders in 1999 and losing both the strike and match, raged in his defence of Australian referee Nic Berry.
Marinos, the Zimbabwean-born, South African raised Welsh international who now wears Australian gold, has condemned Erasmus.
‘Match officials form the very fabric of our game – simply, the game would not exist without them. As a highly regarded and respected international referee appointed by World Rugby, the attack on Nic’s integrity, character and reputation is unacceptable.’
Wrong Mr Marinos.
What is unacceptable is Berry’s inefficiency in getting 26 decisions wrong in 80 minutes.
What is equally distasteful is Berry’s attack on the integrity of Siya Kolisi in how he interacted with the Springbok captain and how Berry brought the game into disrepute with his sub-standard performance.
Where is the hearing into Berry?
What about his professionalism, or lack thereof, and his influence on the flow of the Test match.
Erasmus’s 62 minute video highlighted everything that was wrong about Berry and the match officials’ performance. Erasmus highlighted the most obvious incidents that the match officials should have seen, given they were looking straight at the moments Erasmus identified.
What has got lost in World Rugby’s temper tantrum in wanting to make an example of Erasmus is that they have conveniently bypassed why Erasmus felt compelled to make a video and send it to World Rugby and to Berry.
World Rugby predictably refused to act on the essence of the video material and instead zoned in on Erasmus. They need to be prepared for a fight that is going to be every bit as intense and dramatic as we saw in the three-Test series.
Erasmus is under investigation and so is SA Rugby as the employer of Erasmus. Both the individual and the organization have indicated they won’t take a step back come the hearings.
The Erasmus hearing is a defining moment in player and coaches rights to fairness in a game of rugby.
It is definitive to the game of rugby being true to a professional code and wanting the most accurate decisions made.
There will always be human error, but with one referee, two touchline assistants, a Television Match Official and the luxury of technology and every different type of camera angle, there is no excuse to get 26 decisions wrong in a Test match.
There is also no excuse to get the obvious ones wrong.
World Rugby still governs by committee and rules through agenda-influenced elected officials. It is amateur in structure and amateur in its thinking, especially when it comes to match officials.
These match officials, just like any 18 year-old player and any coach, make a conscious decision to pursue the game of rugby as a profession.
These match officials are not doing anyone a favour by choosing this profession – and they should be rewarded and reprimanded with similar consistency when it comes to their performance.
They cannot continue to be untouchable and a victory for Erasmus and SA Rugby will be a victory for the rights of every professional player and coach.
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