Rassie Erasmus is the most celebrated water boy in the game of rugby and he must continue to coach from the sideline in the guise of one of the water carriers, writes Mark Keohane. It is angering the Lions.
But Erasmus is doing nothing illegal.
The British & Irish Lions are using the media to pressure World Rugby into stopping Erasmus running the touchline as a water boy. It is nonsense and in this modern age it shouldn’t be a sporting crime to have a coach barking out instructions from the side of the field.
As it is, Erasmus is not the head coach and is breaking no rugby law, which prohibits the head coach from being in the technical zone next to the field.
Erasmus, renowned for his innovation, has run the water in the Springboks 40-9 win against Georgia, in the SA ‘A’s 17-13 win against the British & Irish Lions and in the SA ‘A’s 17-14 defeat against the Bulls.
World Rugby has not objected, because they can’t, and rightfully so. Some may argue it is not in the spirit of the game, but in this professional age, spirit takes a back seat to finding any edge over the opposition.
On the eve of the biggest Test series of the year, the story has again surfaced in the British media, with the Daily Mail quoting former referee Alain Rolland as saying it should be stopped, with Lions coach Warren Gatland saying it is not a good look for the game.
Why isn’t it?
Football’s managers are always close to the action. Rugby’s coaches should be no different.
We want teams performing to the best of their ability and having Erasmus on the sideline is just one example of the coaching staff wanting to get the best out of the players.
Gatland is well within his rights to put on a bib and start running the water and coaching messages as well.
Rolland, who took charge of the 2007 World Cup final, wants it stopped in another example of how sanitised the game is becoming.
The Daily Mail quoted Rolland as saying: ‘Head coaches are not allowed in the technical zone. Rassie Erasmus is head coach in everything apart from name. It doesn’t sit comfortably with me. I’ve got no doubt that it will get looked at by World Rugby.
‘He is at all the press conferences, all the training sessions and does all the sparring with Warren Gatland in the media.
‘If Steve Hansen was the director of rugby for the All Blacks, nobody would expect to see him running on the water. Also, most of the time Erasmus is not even carrying water on to the field.’
Rolland conceded that technically the Springboks – and Erasmus – are doing nothing wrong because Erasmus is not the head coach.
‘It may be very difficult to stop because technically South Africa are not breaking the protocol. If South Africa are able to prove that he’s not the head coach, there may not be an awful lot of action that can be taken in such a short period of time.’
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