Cape Town – England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) have come out in support of under-fire referee Wayne Barnes in the wake of the Rassie Erasmus ban, according to the Guardian newspaper, and want SA Rugby to take action against their director of rugby.
Erasmus received a two-game suspension from match-day activities from World Rugby on Thursday night, and has been instructed to not make any social media posts about the match officials or speak to the media after his series of tweets and videos following the last two Tests against Ireland and France.
Erasmus has insisted that the posts were not directed at Barnes, who was in charge of the French Test in Marseille – where the Boks lost 30-26 following a controversial late try – and rather that he wanted the South African players to learn from their mistakes, as well as informing the fans about where they got it wrong.
World Rugby, though, felt that Erasmus had indeed criticised the match officials and suspended him participating in Saturday’s Test against Italy in Genoa (3pm SA time kickoff) and next weekend’s clash against England at Twickenham.
“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 governing body said in a statement.
“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.”
But the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported this week that the RFU have lodged a complaint with SA Rugby about Erasmus’ posts on Barnes’ performance, which has led to apparent death threats to the referee, who became the most experienced official in history by taking charge of his 101st Test at the Stade Velodrome.
“It is understood that the RFU wrote an angry letter to its South African counterparts this week, outlining how Barnes – who was taking charge of his 100th Test last Saturday in France’s narrow win over South Africa – has received online threats, while his family has also been targeted,” the Guardian wrote.
“The RFU is understood to be concerned by the mental toll Erasmus’ comments can have on officials – (Nic) Berry revealed the extreme strain he was put under last year (following Erasmus’ hour-long video following the first British and Irish Lions Test) – and wants the Springboks director of rugby to delete his posts, including a number of videos of incidents accompanied by sarcastic messages.”
Erasmus responded to the issue of the threats to Barnes with another tweet on Thursday, shortly before World Rugby issued their statement, saying: “Like myself the referee of the French test & his family have received threats & abuse.
“Apparently it’s partly due to my tweets which is totally unfounded. Tweets were not aimed at the officials, but to our South Africa fans on what we should do better. Have a go at me not the ref!!”
SA Rugby have yet to respond to the Erasmus ban. When IOL Sport contacted president Mark Alexander on Friday, he said that “I am busy in meetings and am unable to respond”.