South Africa’s Erasmus banned for criticizing ref in video

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus was banned Wednesday for two months and barred from attending test matches in an official role for 10 months after the sport’s governing body found him guilty of misconduct for a bizarre hour-long video in which he sat in front of a TV camera and criticized a referee during this year’s series against the British and Irish Lions.

The decision by World Rugby means the former Springboks coach, who is still often on the sidelines at games, can’t play any part in South Africa’s season-ending test against England at Twickenham on Saturday. He was banned from all rugby activities until next year and won’t be able to attend a South Africa game in any official capacity, or engage with media or match officials on the day of a match, until after Sept. 30, 2022.

Erasmus was found guilty of six counts of misconduct after a four-day hearing that started last month and concluded on Monday after a break.

The charges emanated from a 62-minute video — World Rugby referred to it as the “Erasmus Video” — that appeared online in July. In it, Erasmus, wearing a Springboks cap and shirt, sat alone in a room facing a camera and blasted Australian referee Nic Berry following the world champion’s loss to the Lions in the first test.

Erasmus also used his laptop to show 26 video clips to highlight what he said were mistakes or inconsistencies from Berry and the other match officials that he said cost South Africa the first test.

In a little-known detail, World Rugby said Erasmus had threatened a match official — presumably Berry — that unless the official met with him, he would publish video footage criticizing the official.

Erasmus went ahead and made good on that “threat,” World Rugby said, and the video contained “numerous comments that were either abusive, insulting and/or offensive to match officials.”

South African rugby body SA Rugby was also found guilty of two charges of misconduct for the actions of Erasmus and also comments regarding match officials made by Springboks captain Siya Kolisi and assistant coach Mzwandile Stick in the wake of the first test against the Lions.

SA Rugby was fined $27,000 and both SA Rugby and Erasmus were also warned about their future conduct and ordered to apologize to Berry and other match officials.

SA Rugby said in a statement that it and Erasmus would appeal.

“Neither party will make any further comment until the process is complete,” SA Rugby and Erasmus said in the joint statement.

South Africa ultimately recovered from its defeat in the first test to win the series against the Lions 2-1, but the contest was spoiled by ill-feeling between the two coaching teams and back-and-forth snipes through the media.

Lions coach Warren Gatland suggested South Africa scrumhalf Faf de Klerk should have been sent off for a high tackle in a warmup game against the Lions ahead of the test series. Erasmus responded by reposting videos on his official Twitter account that showed Lions player Owen Farrell making numerous tackles that could be deemed to be illegal in the same game. Erasmus denied he also controlled the Twitter account that originally posted the videos of Farrell.

However, Erasmus’ video following the first test went beyond what was acceptable, World Rugby decided.

Erasmus, who coached the Springboks to the 2019 World Cup title before stepping back into a director of rugby role, had only recently re-joined the squad for its tour to Britain after not traveling for the second part of the Rugby Championship in Australia in September and October.

Erasmus was in the coaches’ box alongside current coach Jacques Nienaber for the victory over Wales in Cardiff on Nov. 6 and returned to the role of an on-field water carrier — an unusual tactic that has irritated opposition coaches — when South Africa beat Scotland last weekend.

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