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Lions believe O'Keeffe is 'professional enough' not to be distracted by Erasmus

Meanwhile, Dan Biggar is on track to be fit for tomorrow’s second Test.

32-year-old Ben O'Keeffe in in charge of the second Test.
32-year-old Ben O'Keeffe in in charge of the second Test.
Image: David Davies

THE LIONS BELIEVE that Kiwi referee Ben O’Keeffe is “professional enough” not to be distracted or swayed by Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus’ rhetoric around refereeing ahead of tomorrow’s second Test.

Erasmus yesterday released an hour-long video review of referee Nic Berry’s performance in the first Test, highlighting close to 30 decisions and non-decisions that he suggested wrongly went against the Boks.

Earlier this week, Erasmus used his personal Twitter account to highlight some of the same incidents.

Lions assistant coach Robin McBryde said O’Keeffe acknowledged the social media furore during his meeting with the tourists this week, but they are backing the New Zealander not to be influenced by what Erasmus has been highlighting.

“No, I don’t think so,” said McBryde when asked if it could have an effect on O’Keeffe. “He is professional enough. We are all professional enough.

“We had a good meeting with the referees yesterday.

“As Ben O’Keeffe said himself, we’re aware there’s a lot of stuff out there on social media, etc., but that’s not going to affect anything. That’s just a sideshow. We had a positive discussion with the referee.

rassie-erasmus Rassie Erasmus has been highly vocal this week. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Everyone realises they’re in a tough place. They’ve got a tough job to do. But we were really happy with Nic Berry last Saturday and I don’t think it will be any different this weekend either. 

“On Ben, we have no issues. He is a top man and we are looking forward to working with him on Saturday.”

While Erasmus used his video to complain about how slow World Rugby was in providing feedback to the Springboks camp after the first Test, McBryde said the Lions had no gripes in that sense.

“The only thing that I can bring up there really is that I had a conversation with [former All Blacks scrum coach] Mike Cron early on Tuesday morning, just around the scrum,” said McBryde.

“Mike is used as a consultant for World Rugby, he’s a great sounding board. Everyone in world rugby knows Mike from a scrummaging point of view in particular. I was on a call with him for well over half an hour, I was keen to hear his views on a couple of things.

“I can only speak from my own experience this week. I know Joël [Jutge, World Rugby's head of match officials] has been in touch with Warren [Gatland] with regards to some clips that he wanted clarity on.

“The process is not different to what I’ve experienced in the past internationally. It was the same during the World Cup in 2019 and I can only say that I’m really happy with the way the week has gone and we weren’t surprised by anything on Saturday from Nic Berry and we had a good conversation with the referees yesterday.

“We’re generally happy with the way things have gone this week.”

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british-and-irish-lion-dan-biggar Dan Biggar is on track to start tomorrow.

Meanwhile, McBryde confirmed that Lions out-half Dan Biggar is on track to be cleared to start tomorrow’s second Test in Cape Town following his head injury last weekend.

Biggar is due to do a contact training session today, having completed all of his return-to-play protocols so far this week.

“He has been symptom-free since his post-match head injury assessment and has remained symptom-free throughout the process,” said McBryde, reading from a document.

“He has been monitored daily by two consultant sports physicians and has also been reviewed by an independent professional consultant.

“This process has been successfully utilised to allow for independent verification of the medical management undertaken in all concussion cases during the tour in SA to date.

“All players will have an individualised and highly integrated approach to their management with a multitude of factors being taken into consideration. Our players’ health remains the absolute priority and we continue to deliver the highest level of care independent of any match regardless of its importance.”

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