Rassie Erasmus

Rassie Erasmus is under threat of facing further action from World Rugby. Image: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Reuters.

What World Rugby wants from Rassie going forward

World Rugby has reiterated the importance of communication going forward after stating that Rassie Erasmus “crossed a line”.

Rassie Erasmus

Rassie Erasmus is under threat of facing further action from World Rugby. Image: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Reuters.

On Thursday night, World Rugby dramatically issued Rassie Erasmus with a ban on all match-day activities for two matches as a result of recent social media posts, which were deemed to be critical of officials.

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According to Sunday newspaper Rapport, Erasmus’ suspension could in fact have simply been a temporary measure to get him away from matches and the public spotlight, and World Rugby may consider taking the matter further.

World Rugby chief executive officer Alan Gilpin has now sought to further clear the air even though he admitted Erasmus “doesn’t agree” with his punishment. 

“What is important is we are able to move forward in a dialogue with them (SA Rugby),” Gilpin told the BBC. “Let’s have a discussion about why certain behaviours are appropriate or inappropriate. If coaches or other people involved in South African rugby or anywhere else don’t think the protocols are working, let’s talk about that.

“This is about every referee who is, on a Sunday morning, refereeing kids’ rugby anywhere in the world, having permission to do the job properly, and not having every parent on the touchline posting videos on social media,” Gilpin said.

“That’s the really important thing in terms of the integrity of the game. The referees will be the first to tell you they welcome feedback. They are really up for those discussions with coaches.

“We have to make sure we protect them in that sense, but our view, and he may not agree, is that he has crossed the line. For us, it is really important we reinforce where those lines are, for everybody to see.”

Several SA coaches and union bosses have also apparently told Rapport that Erasmus’ behaviour is selfish, and that his ban is tarnishing SA rugby’s image and is sure to have a negative affect on other SA teams playing abroad.

In handing down Erasmus’ suspension, the world governing body reiterated a stance that ”condemns any public criticism of match official selection, performance or integrity, which undermines their role, the trust-based coach/match officials feedback process and the values of integrity, respect, solidarity and discipline”.

The ban also prevents Erasmus from any “engagement with media and social media in relation to match officials”.

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The director of rugby would have had few complaints about the officials this past Saturday though, while he took to Twitter after the match that saw the Springboks thrash Italy. “Thanks South Africa, appreciate your views and input! Lekka,” he commented as he referred back to another tweet of his from the previous weekend.

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Rassie has sought to downplay his Twitter antics

In reaction to the widespread backlash from these posts, Erasmus appeared at a press conference last week, where he sought to set the record straight by explaining that he was simply looking to keep the broader South African rugby public well informed.

World Rugby have been notably silent on the matter, but on Thursday the organisation issued a statement to confirm the following:

World Rugby has reviewed the recent social media posts by SA Rugby Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus that relate to match officiating in the Autumn Nations Series.

Match officials are the backbone of the sport and without them there is no game. World Rugby condemns any public criticism of match official selection, performance or integrity, which undermines their role, the trust-based coach/match officials feedback process and the values of integrity, respect, solidarity and discipline that are at the heart of the sport.

The behaviour of coaching staff and match officials are widely observed by fans, media and participants at every level, and such behaviours affect how the values are applied across the game.

In addition, under the Match Officials Communication Framework, national teams have the ability to enter into a confidential feedback process, which is critical for success in a high-performance environment. The success of these communications relies on direct and honest feedback which is delivered and received in a confidential way.

In line with the Framework, World Rugby has the ability to impose a sanction where a breach has occurred. Having considered the matter World Rugby has issued a two-match ban against Rassie Erasmus and accordingly he may not take part in any match day activity in relation to the two upcoming test matches that South Africa has against Italy on 19 November, 2022 and England on 26 November, 2022. The ban includes engagement with media and social media in relation to match officials.

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