Cape Town — Warren Gatland just couldn’t help himself and not get involved in the latest Rassie Erasmus video furore, as the former Wales coach called on SA Rugby to “pull Erasmus aside” and ask him to follow World Rugby processes to air his grievances about match officials.
Gatland and Erasmus went head-to-head in last year’s British & Irish Lions series in South Africa, with lots of verbal jousting about TMOs, referees’ decisions and THAT video about Australian ref Nic Berry, which saw the former Bok loose forward cop a two-month ban from all rugby activities.
And it didn’t end there, as Erasmus could not be involved with the Springbok team on match-days until the November internationals started a few weeks ago.
But this week, in a column for The Telegraph newspaper in the UK, Gatland got his shot in following Erasmus’ latest series of videos on Twitter, where he posted clips of the Boks getting some rough calls — although his captions were about wanting to ensure the players don’t make the same mistakes.
SA had some close calls go against them in the 30-26 defeat to France at the weekend, with one incident where France scored a match-winning try resulting in English referee Wayne Barnes being unable to communicate with the TMO as the technology wasn’t working at the time.
“I don’t tag people or say it’s the referees. I don’t say anything like that. I’m saying that these are the things that we must fix. If someone doesn’t want to see that, unfollow me, mute me, but surely there are South African supporters who would like to know where we are going and where we are getting it right and wrong,” Erasmus said on Tuesday.
“It’s not having a go at the referee. I don’t think Wayne Barnes would ever make bad decisions. He is the number-one referee in the world, the most experienced referee in the world. It’s obviously something on our side that we have to fix. If people put their own narrative to it, I can’t control that.”
But former Lions and Wales boss Gatland — who is now the director of rugby at the Chiefs in New Zealand — was having none of it.
“While I was at Murrayfield on Sunday for Scotland’s game with New Zealand, someone showed me the tweets Rassie Erasmus was posting after South Africa’s loss to France and commented: ‘Oh, have you seen Rassie’s at it again’. While he’s being gracious in one way talking about the game and atmosphere and result, throughout those tweets, there is a subtle dig at the match officials … ” Gatland wrote.
“We don’t see other directors of rugby or head coaches doing the same thing. I think it’s a little bit disappointing. There is a process in place for people to do reports after games and get feedback. And I would like to see Rassie follow that process.
“I can’t particularly see a defence there for what he’s doing. I don’t think it’s a great look for the game. The last thing we need is coaches taking this (social) media (approach) and making comments about the game.
“After every game, you pick out things and send in clips where you want clarification, and that’s the process you go through.
“Referees, the good ones, will come back and put their hands up on calls they’ve got wrong and you accept that, because it’s human nature.
“We’re going to make mistakes … they can’t see everything. Things are happening so quickly, and you understand people aren’t going to see every situation.
“I just think as coaches and administrators, there is a process, and we need to keep our counsel.
“You would like to think that someone will pull Erasmus aside, whether it’s someone from the South African Rugby Union or their CEO or there’s a phone call, to tell Rassie: ‘I don’t think you’re doing yourself any favours, or World Rugby any favours by putting these things out on social media’.
“Let the public do that and go through the right processes.”