Springboks captain and Rugby World Cup winner John Smit has weighed in on the Rassie Erasmus saga, saying the director of rugby’s continued social media comments had made the South Africa side “so easy to hate”.
Erasmus was handed a two-game ban last week after posting several messages on Twitter highlighting alleged refereeing inconsistencies in the Springboks’ 30-26 loss to France in Marseille.
A week earlier, Erasmus had released clips from South Africa’s 19-16 loss to Ireland, which compared similar incidents from the Test which would have been officiated differently, although Erasmus made no comment. such statements directly.
With Erasmus showing little sign of ending its social media refereeing blackouts, World Rugby had no choice but to act, and Erasmus was subsequently banned from the Springboks’ Tests against England. Italy and England.
While Erasmus received widespread support from Springbok fans at home, Smit, who led South Africa to victory in the 2007 World Cup, said the 2019 World Cup-winning coach was gone too far.
“It’s hard to defend him…the way he’s approached it isn’t fair,” Smit told the BBC. Rugby Daily podcast.
“Are you telling me that Rassie is the only coach frustrated by a call gone wrong?
“Something has to be done. There has to be a line to be drawn, and he makes it difficult for his team. It has made us, as a rugby team, so easy to hate.”
Erasmus’ recent posts come after he was banned from attending Test matches in an official role for 10 months last year, following an hour-long YouTube video that targeted the Australian referee Nic Berry after the Springboks lost the opening test against the British and Irish Lions.
That ban didn’t end until the end of September, meaning the Springboks’ first test of Erasmus in an official capacity was the narrow loss to Ireland in Dublin.
While Smit was clearly disappointed with Erasmus’ conduct, he said there was a wider problem in rugby which was putting unwanted pressure on referees.
The 🇫🇷 and 🇿🇦 9 are under immense pressure!! We just have to put that aside!! Sorry 🇿🇦💔 pic.twitter.com/srzoaBjm89
—Rassie Erasmus (@RassieRugby) November 13, 2022
The former Springboks skipper’s comments follow whistleblower Ben O’Keeffe’s revelations of some of the online abuse he suffered after refereeing Ireland’s 13-10 win over the Wallabies.
“I honestly believe there should be a penalty for any player who thinks he can help the referee officiate the game,” he said.
“Referees have to take control back. Everyone seems to think they have influence on what the referee should do. When I was captain, when someone else was talking they disrespected me, so than to the referee.
“Refereeing rugby is incredibly difficult. What we want is consistency and respect, and I think when we start giving that back to the referee the pressure will be off.” [and they will] have more consistent performance.
“I would like the referees to get the upper hand and not have to defend themselves all the time.”
World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin has meanwhile explained why the governing body felt it was necessary to suspend Erasmus, despite the former Springboks flanker not agreeing with the way whose posts were to be perceived.
“We have to make sure we protect them [referees] in that sense,” Gilpin told the Rugby Daily.
“South Africa are a brilliant and really important part of the game in men’s and women’s, 7s and 15s. They are world champions and Rassie has done amazing things with that team and is clearly an amazing coach.
“But our view – and he may not agree – is that he crossed the line. For us, it’s really important that we reinforce where those lines are, so that everyone can see it.
“Being a rugby referee is the hardest job in sport. Let’s give these guys, and the brilliant women who do this job, the best possible support and chance, and work with them to improve. And it’s a responsibility that the best coaches have to take on too.”
The Springboks’ season comes to an end this weekend at Twickenham, where they will look to improve their tour record to 2-2 after beating their November duck with a comprehensive win over Italy.