Rassie Erasmus offers to step aside as Lions officiating row rumbles on

Rassie Erasmus, South Africa’s director of rugby, has filmed another extraordinary video calling into question the officiating during the current British & Irish Lions Test series. Erasmus has even suggested he will step aside from the final two Tests if it helps ensure the Springboks are treated more fairly than was the case in Saturday’s first Test defeat.

In an hour-long video which is certain to be studied closely by World Rugby officials, Erasmus insists the Australian referee Nic Berry and his assistants made numerous mistakes which directly influenced the eventual outcome. Most explosively of all, he also alleged that his World Cup-winning captain, Siya Kolisi, was treated with less respect at key moments than the Lions skipper Alun Wyn Jones.

Despite wearing a Springbok cap and training shirt, Erasmus claimed his lengthy monologue, full of examples of decisions he believes wrongly went against the host nation, was made in a personal capacity. He also appears to be anticipating an unimpressed reaction from the game’s ruling body. “If this causes that I’m not allowed to be water carrier that’s fine, I’ll step away,” said Erasmus. “If we’re going to get a fine, I’ll step away from the management team. If this means the Springboks will get in trouble I’ll say I did this personally, because I believe in fairness, the system and two teams having an equal chance of competing in a match.”

Erasmus has already been vocal in his belief the Boks were harshly treated by the referee in comparison to the Lions and insists pre-match assurances about how key aspects of the contest would be handled failed to materialise. “Not saying the referee was a cheat at all, saying we just wanted clarity … which I personally am not very convinced … we had from Nic Berry.

“I’ve had previous encounters saying things in public about referees and it normally comes back to bite you, but the Lions only comes around every 12 years … it should be fair that I’ll step away from these last two Test matches but let the two teams have an equal chance on the field when it comes to laws, respect, the way players are treated, what is said in the pre-match coaches’ meetings with referees, how they give feedback and are seen in the media.

“When Siya spoke to the referee and when Alun Wyn spoke to the referee, I felt the reactions on how they treated both those players … there was a vast difference between who was taken seriously and who wasn’t.”

Erasmus also remains unhappy that the Lions head coach Warren Gatland publicly called for more clarity from World Rugby about high tackles before the series began annd queried the appointment of South African TMO Marius Jonker, a good friend of Erasmus’s. “I think where things for us got cluttered and frustrating was when the Lions started moaning about officiating on the field where for example Faf de Klerk got a yellow card in the South Africa ‘A’ game.

“The Lions criticised that and said they wanted clarity from World Rugby. We had in the same game lots of clips of the Lions making mistakes, just like us. Warren openly said it should have been a red card. Where we got a bit worried was this narrative that we are this dirty team.”