The romance of Rassie Erasmus has quickly turned to ridicule, and his refusal to take a defeat on the chin is alienating him from his most ardent supporters and simply embarrassing South African rugby, writes Mark Keohane.
Australian referee Nic Berry decided in July of 2021 that no matter what, the Springboks would not win the first Test against the British & Irish Lions. Berry and TMO Marius Jonker were a joke on the day, and Rassie Erasmus made a video in which he pointed out 26 incorrect calls made against the Springboks. Erasmus was justified in making the video, and the subsequent ban imposed on him by World Rugby was testament to the terrible state of affairs that currently characterises rugby; that in which refereeing globally is a shambles, the rules are far too complex, but World Rugby may not be questioned.
I was public, vocal and absolutely in Erasmus’s corner on the merits of the Nic Berry video.
My blog archives, with over 50 000 Facebook shares on just one article, by way of example, show I was not alone in the support.
The Erasmus’ video was a pertinent shock to a system that needed to be called out on its faults. However, that video should be remembered in its singularity, and not as the beginning of a series of moans that speak less to a coach with an objective eye for injustice than a sore loser unable to look beyond a referee in the wider context of a loss.
Erasmus, now allowed back at the stadium with the players after a World Rugby one year ban, has far from covered himself in glory in the last two weeks. The Springboks were awful against Ireland and they lost. Georgian Nika Amashukeli, the referee, was not good; he missed a clear forward pass from Ireland that could have changed the whole dynamic of the game and I was as frustrated as every other Springboks supporter. Equally, Amashukeli could and should have sent Cheslin Kolbe off with a red card within the first ten minutes for his spear tackle on Irish winger Mack Hansen. I’m sure every Irish player and supporter was livid but Ireland’s coach Andy Farrell did not take to social media with video evidence of the injustice and insinuations of referee bias.
Eramsus was quick to take to Twitter to sarcastically call out various poor examples of refereeing throughout the game. None of them called into question the fact that Kolbe was given a yellow when he should have seen red. If Rassie’s biggest bug bear is inconsistency in refereeing, then there should be consistency in his videos. He should be educating the rugby public on where the referee and his assistants and TMO got it wrong in relation to both teams.
This past Saturday the story was the same against France. The Boks were not good enough. Their ill-discipline let them down and they could not take advantage of a French side missing their captain for 25 minutes after the game was levelled to 14 men on each team following Antoine Du Pont’s red card. Despite bossing an eight-man French pack with just seven forwards, the Boks still could not turn it into points. They just weren’t good enough. But if you take Erasmus’ Twitter timeline as gospel in your post-match review, you’d say it was entirely the ref’s fault that the Boks lost. Rubbish.
The obsession Erasmus has with finding fault in a referee is becoming absurd, given the myopic analysis that is being done. I can guarantee you the short clips on Twitter criticising the decision making would look vastly different when cut by a French or Irishman. But, as one Twitter user so succinctly put it:
“I’m sure there will be a number of calls the ref got wrong from a France perspective as well but winners typically don’t waste their time trying to show the ref where he missed something… Just let it go Rassie. Nothing we post on Twitter will change the result.”
I’m sure there will be a number of calls the ref got wrong from a France perspective as well but winners typically don’t waste their time trying to show the ref where he missed something… Just let it go Rassie. Nothing we post on Twitter will change the result.
— Jaco Meintjes (@jacomeintjes) November 13, 2022
It looks even worse when you consider the absolute lack of creativity and adaptability that the Bok management has shown in recent months when it comes to both selections and style of play. The South African rugby public, in love with Erasmus since his World Cup-winning campaign of 2019, has shown incredible faith in a coach who has done and won a lot with the Springboks, but who has also lost a lot and made many questionable decisions too. The faith and love is slowly shifting to a general attitude of irritation.
In the wake of Erasmus’ recent Tweets and videos, users – mainly South Africans – have blasted the petulance inherent in his behaviour. Below are a few among a widespread, frustrated response:
Rassie, this is getting embarrassing now. I get it we want consistency from the ref but whatever happened to "If you’re good enough, the referee doesn’t matter."
— Darren Holliday (@Darrenholliday) November 13, 2022
Yeah, you lost because of selections, lack of skills and inability to execute (which has become a trend for the past 12 months). Stop blaming the ref, get the selections right, if you are to employ a more attacking mindset then use players that actually have the associated skills
— Marty (@RohdeMartin474) November 13, 2022
Oom Rassie, Paul het uiters respek vir jou en die SA spanne. Genuine. Hierdie is nie die korrekte pad vorentoe nie. Skydsregters is mense, ons moet op ons eie foute ook werk. Daar's niks skaam in gisteraand se skof, ek is so trots op die span se gees. Volgende keer vat ons hulle.
Stop blaming others for our shortcomings Rassie. It’s childish and embarrassing. If you can’t take the pressure then resign and give the job to someone who knows the meaning of accountability. You’re one of me heroes and it’s so sad to see that crumble before my eyes
— Name cannot be blank (@glaupie) November 13, 2022
Erasmus is not incorrect in his analysis, and the videos show the low standard of refereeing that many have already come to expect. However, the videos – along with the ambiguous, sarcastic Tweets – are only surfacing after losses and they focus only on calls against the Boks and not the other team. The general narrative within the Springbok camp at the moment seems to be that they are doing nothing wrong in terms of selection or style of play, and Erasmus’ compulsive calling out of the referees is becoming a cop-out that relinquishes the responsibility of fronting the public and admitting to poor selections and tactics.
Erasmus’s narrative is that world rugby and its officials have it in for the Springboks and it is because they want them to lose.
There is nothing against the Boks but Erasmus is doing everything possible to ensure that the 2019 World Cup winners, among the most popular teams to ever win the tournament, are fast becoming the most unpopular side – and it has nothing to do with the players.
Erasmus, during his ban, posted hilarious videos of his English bulldog Frank. He also posted cringe videos of his dance moves.
Both were entertaining for different reasons, but there is nothing entertaining about the ongoing rants after every defeat.
His timeline has become embarrassing.
And it is only doing the Springboks an injustice and rugby in this country a disservice.
Rassie, get on with finding a way to influence a Bok win and revival. You have the capacity, intellectually and in rugby application.
Use your infinite rugby knowledge to further the game and not insult it.
Rather show us videos of Frank @RassieRugby … far more entertaining … reality is since 2018 Boks are 14/31 v NZL, Eng, FR, Ire, Aus & Wales … Coaching, game plan, selections & execution the issue more than refs. Own the 55% of Tests you guys have lost v these WC contenders https://t.co/S2MjcPRagw
— Mark Keohane (@mark_keohane) November 13, 2022