Rassie Erasmus (R) and Warren Gatland have continued their war of words ahead of the opening test later in July

Credit: David Rogers
/Getty Images Europe

Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has hit back at Warren Gatland by provocatively highlighting Owen Farrell’s tackling technique on his social media account.

Just eight days out from the Test series, Erasmus posted two video clips on his personal Twitter account of Farrell tackles in the Lions defeat to South Africa ‘A’ in response to Gatland’s comments calls for consistency around the high tackle law. On Thursday, the Lions head coach had questioned why scrum half Faf de Klerk had only received a yellow card after apparently making contact with the head of Lions flanker Josh Navidi. 

“Someone was watching a different picture to me, I thought it looked reckless,” said Gatland, who had also mocked Erasmus’ role as a water boy. “No arms and he’s hit the arm first and then the shoulder, but there’s definitely head-on-head contact.

“We’ve got a meeting with the referees just to get a bit of clarity on that. What we want is clarity so that we get complete consistency. The citing commissary looks at those things. It’ll be interesting to see what the referees come back with.”

If that was bait then Erasmus bit hard. In response to a newspaper article quoting that last sentence, Erasmus posted a clip of Farrell leading with his shoulder in a tackle on Jasper Wiese with the comment, “While you at it please get clarity on this also !! [red card], [yellow card], penalty or play on? We have to 100% sure and aligned.” The video was paused at the point of contact to emphasise his message.

While you at it please get clarity on this also !! 🔴🟡 penalty or play on ? We have to 100% sure and aligned ! Cant agree more pic.twitter.com/OxBReYlMXq

— Rassie Erasmus (@RassieRugby) July 16, 2021

Erasmus followed that up with a second video, this time of Farrell ragdolling De Klerk after play had gone dead. The clip even circled Farrell’s arm coming around De Klerk’s neck and it also came with another loaded comment. “If there is time maybe also get absolute clarity and alignment on this one please, I know its way after the whistle, but lets just align and get clarity to be sure.”

If there is time maybe also get absolute clarity and alignment on this one please, I know its way after the whistle, but lets just align and get clarity to be sure pic.twitter.com/6MKvHY4662

— Rassie Erasmus (@RassieRugby) July 16, 2021

Erasmus had already provoked the Lions hierarchy by implying they were risking the players’ safety by facing the Stormers rather than a repeat fixture against South Africa A. He also dropped the bombshell that Alun Wyn Jones was returning to the tour before it had been formally announced by the Lions.

Nor is it the first time that Erasmus has called out Farrell’s penchant for high tackles. In November 2018, Farrell escaped punishment for a shoulder led tackle on André Esterhuizen in England’s 12-11 victory against the Springboks. The following week the Springboks posted a video of Erasmus mockingly teaching his players to make neck high tackles in training.