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World Rugby referee boss Joël Jutge: Rassie Erasmus opens the door to violent behaviour with his tweets and videos

World Rugby referee boss Joël Jutge: Rassie Erasmus opens the door to violent behaviour with his tweets and videos

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Cape Town – World Rugby’s head of match officials Joël Jutge believes Rassie Erasmus’ series of tweets and videos following the Springbok Tests against Ireland and France “opens the door to violent behaviour and behind it, entire families are insulted and affected”, and that it was “extremely dangerous”.

Jutge made his comments to French newspaper Midi Olympique before Erasmus received a two-match ban from World Rugby on Thursday night.

SA Rugby’s director of rugby has been at pains to point out that his videos and comments were not aimed at the referees in question in Dublin and Marseille, Nika Amashukeli of Georgia and Wayne Barnes of England respectively, but rather to help his players improve and make fewer mistakes, while also explaining the incidents to Bok supporters.

World Rugby, though, took a different view, and banned him from being involved in any match-day activities and social media posts about refereeing decisions for Saturday’s Test against Italy in Genoa, as well as next weekend’s showdown with England at Twickenham.

“World Rugby has reviewed the recent social media posts by SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus that relate to match officiating in the Autumn Nations Series.

“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 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.

“In addition, under the Match Officials Communication Framework, national teams have the ability to enter into a confidential feedback process, which is critical for success in a high-performance environment.

“The success of these communications relies on direct and honest feedback, which is delivered and received in a confidential way.

“In line with the Framework, World Rugby has the ability to impose a sanction where a breach has occurred.

“Having considered the matter, World Rugby has issued a two-match ban against Rassie Erasmus, and accordingly, he may not take part in any match-day activity in relation to the two upcoming Test matches that South Africa has against Italy on 19 November, 2022 and England on 26 November, 2022.

“The ban includes engagement with media and social media in relation to match officials.”

Before that statement was released, former French Test referee Jutge expressed his unhappiness with Erasmus’ posts, and pointed out that it had come after the ex-Bok loose forward had been banned for his video about Australian official Nic Berry’s performance in the first British and Irish Lions Test last year.

“He chose this channel of communication several months ago. He had more or less done the same thing during the last British and Lions tour in South Africa, and closer to us, after the recent defeat of the Springboks in Ireland,” Jutge said.

“We regret this behaviour because we, at World Rugby, have set up a system of communication and exchanges with the coaches, which works rather well.

“We are therefore very disappointed that he is using social networks to voice his reservations about the refereeing of this or that match. It’s counter-productive and totally inappropriate. But if he does, it’s because his federation authorises him to do so… It’s unfortunate…”

Jutge added that he had met with Barnes following the Boks’ 30-26 defeat to France in Marseille.

“Yes, we saw each other in London, where we recently debriefed the meetings of the autumn (Tests). All referees are affected by these attacks on referees in general, and Wayne Barnes last weekend,” he said.

“Because by doing so, Rassie Erasmus opens the door to violent behaviour and behind it, entire families are insulted and affected. It is extremely dangerous. But some people think that if the South African coach talks about a referee like that, they have the right to do it too…

“All the coaches on the international circuit know (the process to be followed to voice their concerns). 98 percent of coaches use it and send us their observations, which I then pass on to our referees, so that they are not surprised when they meet these same coaches.

“So, I don’t understand Rassie Erasmus’ attitude. (he pauses) What will be done to make him stop? I don’t know… It’s not part of my skills…

“His attitude is a concern for World Rugby, and Rassie Erasmus’ peers do not share his way of doing things. It is contrary to our values, even if this word is sometimes overused. Erasmus does not serve his cause, and it is surprising to see him continue in this way.

“However, you could be told that Rassie Erasmus is an adult in his 50s who has every right to freely express his opinions… We totally agree. But there are things that, in my opinion, must be settled internally. These sensitive subjects cannot end up in the public square.”

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 🇿![CDATA[]]>🇦fans on what we should do better. Have a go at me not the ref!! Tweets👇![CDATA[]]>🏿 pic.twitter.com/XYnrtjl091

— Rassie Erasmus (@RassieRugby) November 17, 2022

Having perhaps already been informed of his ban, Erasmus defended his posts with another tweet on Thursday evening before World Rugby’s statement was made public, where he uploaded screenshots of his previous posts and said: “Like myself, the referee of the French test (Wayne Barnes) & 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 SA fans on what we should do better. Have a go at me not the ref!!”


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