Rassie Erasmus also shrugged off criticism from former England and Lions head coach Sir Clive Woodward
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Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus denied setting up a burner Twitter account as he accused the Lions of undermining the integrity of the game.
Erasmus also revealed that he is “close, close friends” with Marius Jonker, the South African television match official whose appointment for the Test series the Lions had criticised. On Monday, Erasmus retweeted a Twitter account called ‘Jaco Johan’ that had compiled a list of decisions by referee Nic Berry that went against South Africa in the first Test 22-17 defeat.
Suspicions were quickly raised that ‘Jaco Johan’, which had zero followers but had access to high-quality un-watermarked analysis, was a burner account used by the Springbok management to circulate footage of possible Lions foul play.
On Tuesday, Erasmus attempted to laugh that off accusation. “No I’m actually not Jaco Johan, I’m Rassie Erasmus,” Erasmus, whose first name is Johan, said. “I actually follow Jaco Johan, he’s a big supporter of us. He’s been feeding me some really good clips for a while now, things that I’ve actually used in the past. He’s a very big supporter, a really funny guy and I quite enjoy the things that he does.”
Erasmus says that he was “baffled” by the appointment of Jonker as a non-neutral TMO for the Test match series but implied that Lions head coach Warren Gatland crossed a line by publicising his objections. “Warren talked last week about Marius Jonker, Warren is a great guy, I’ll tell you straight up, I always enjoy his company, he’s a good man,” Erasmus said.
“But it was weird for me that people would question Marius’ integrity. Say this weekend, Ben O’Keefe is a New Zealander and Warren is also a New Zealander, we would never say that. It wouldn’t sit well.
“The whole integrity of the game would be questioned, and we would never do that. What we are trying to do is find out from World Rugby exactly some decisions which we got wrong and some things we could have done better in the game.”
@thenosyone987 is this you again Jaco Johan ? Enough!!! I think they get it now https://t.co/A4yOSEW4b5
— Rassie Erasmus (@RassieRugby) July 26, 2021
Asked how he could square his plea to protect the integrity of the game with his tweets that micro-analysed the perceived mistakes of Berry in the first Test defeat, Erasmus said: “I think you are 100 per cent right. I think if someone goes and microanalyses every non decision which has not been taken then that’s awful. You can’t do that.
“The referee only had to be advised. But I think if you do analyse the things he is supposed to see, I think then you are actually supporting the integrity of the game.”
The controversy surrounding Erasmus overshadowed the Springboks’ team announcement. South Africa have made three changes for the second Test with a pair of new props in Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe replacing the injured Ox Nche and Trevor Nyakane.
Meanwhile Leicester No 8 Jasper Wiese comes in for Kwagga Smith in a move that should bolster the power of the Springbok pack. Head coach Jacques Nienaber has also reverted to a six-forward, two-back split in a further emphasis of the Springboks’ power game that they used to win the World Cup.
South Africa also make three changes for crucial second Test
Erasmus was quick to point out that South Africa lost their opening game in that tournament against New Zealand. “If we win the next one the Lions are in the same position as us and need to win the last one to win,” he said.
“That’s the way we’ll look at it. We’ve been in positions like this before. At the World Cup we lost the first game to the All Blacks and had to win the next six to win the World Cup. We’re definitely a team under pressure, you’re correct there.”
Erasmus was head coach in 2019 but despite stepping back into a director of rugby position has remained a constant presence within the South Africa camp, even appearing on the pitch as a water carrier. The dynamic between him and Nienaber has been criticised by Sir Clive Woodward, but Erasmus shrugged that off.
“I don’t know if Sir is so important in South Africa as it is in England, that is just his opinion and myself and Jacques are great mates,” Erasmus said. “I am the water carrier, he is higher than me in the rank, we have always worked together, since 1990.
“You go and look at that match on Saturday, in minute 71 we score a try that is pulled back and if it is not the relationship might have been perfect and people would be saying it is working really well. Clive Woodward doesn’t really matter to me.”