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Rassie's misconduct charge should mean a friendlier third Test build-up

World Rugby has taken action against the SA Rugby director of rugby for his 62-minute long video.

Warren Gatland and Rassie Erasmus.
Warren Gatland and Rassie Erasmus.

IT WAS ALMOST comical to hear the Springboks essentially telling us how great a bunch of lads World Rugby and their match officials are during yesterday’s press conference from Cape Town.

The words of Boks assistant coach Deon Davids were certainly a marked contrast to Rassie Erasmus’ 62-minute monologue last week in which he shredded referee Nic Berry first Test performance and World Rugby’s processes around feedback.

World Rugby, the game’s governing body, only ever had one option in response to Erasmus’ uniquely personal and highly suggestive video. The SA Rugby director of rugby made some excellent points but it was always going to be seen as a step too far.

And so, last night’s confirmation of a misconduct charge against Erasmus and SA Rugby came as little surprise. World Rugby deemed Erasmus’ video to have breached their regulation 18, meaning he and SA Rugby will face an independent disciplinary panel on a yet-to-be-confirmed date.

Presumably, it will come after the dust settles on the decisive third Test on Saturday but World Rugby’s action should ensure a much friendlier build-up to this weekend’s game than was the case last week, when the atmosphere moved from entertaining and mischievous to poisonous in the days before the Springboks’ win.

Rassie will reflect on his video as having worked, with the Boks getting the better of the refereeing decisions last weekend in a game that was extremely stop-start, which is exactly what they had hoped for. Erasmus also succeeded in creating a stronger sense of ‘us versus the world’ within his squad. 

World Rugby’s statement last night said it had reminded both the Lions and the Boks of “their obligations regarding the values of the sport” and promised to undertake a review of its Code of Conduct in order to “strengthen its scope, scale, and sanctions.”

rassie-erasmus Erasmus will face an independent disciplinary hearing. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

It is important to note that World Rugby have been onto the Lions too. We can’t forget that they publicly questioned the appointment of Marius Jonker as a late replacement for Kiwi match official Brendon Pickerill – assistant coach Robin McBryde was the one who went on the record – leaving Jonker in a nervous spot.

Of course, Jonker has been placed in a very difficult position with the appointment by World Rugby, although he could have avoided it all by turning down the offer to step in. Jonker will be hoping he doesn’t have to make a high-profile call in this weekend’s third Test.

World Rugby’s statement last night didn’t refer to any Lions offence directly but did underline that the organisation “condemns any public criticism of [match official's] selection, performance or integrity which undermines their role”.

It will be intriguing to hear what the independent disciplinary panel makes of the Rassie case. World Rugby’s list of sanctions for breaches of its regulations ranges from warnings, fines, and suspensions all the way up to the cancellation of a result, replaying of a match, or expulsion of the union from World Rugby.

It seems most likely that Erasmus and SA Rugby will have to pay a fine and perhaps make an apology to Berry, with the former Munster boss possibly suspended from water boy duties for a few games.

That would set a precedent for coaches coming out in public with highly detailed reviews of refereeing performances but it’s not as if someone criticising a ref after losing a game is new in rugby.

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For now, World Rugby’s action should simmer everything down after a bonkers week on this Lions tour. Complaints about the inaction around some of the alleged foul play in the second Test might rumble on among supporters but it’s hard to imagine either camp kicking up a fuss for the rest of this week.

riekert-hattingh-is-sent-off-by-referee-mathieu-raynal This weekend's referee is Mathieu Raynal. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

French referee Mathieu Raynal would happily take a very quiet build-up to the biggest Test of his career.

The Lions will name their third Test team at midday today, with the Boks to follow around 40 minutes later, meaning there will be plenty of interesting rugby angles to keep us busy as the decider on Saturday looms.

World Rugby’s statement last night included a reminder that “South Africa versus the British and Irish Lions is a showcase of rugby that generates great excitement and interest,” but many supporters would argue that the ‘excitement’ part has been missing for them so far.

Here’s hoping the third Test is to everyone’s taste with a little less of the acrimony.

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Murray Kinsella

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