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Lions Tour: South Africa’s Rassie Erasmus questioned over suspicious social media activity

British and Irish Lions Tour

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Rassie Erasmus

Rassie Erasmus

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

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Rassie Erasmus

For all the areas that were so forensically analysed as the potential keys to this series, the battle of the burner account was one that few could have seen coming.

And yet, the aftermath of the British and Irish Lions’ first Test victory over the Springboks has become dominated by chat around the social media activities of the host’s Director of Rugby.

Rassie Erasmus, once of Munster, first took to Twitter last week when replying to a Irish Examiner post about Warren Gatland’s comments on his scrum-half Faf de Klerk’s tackle in the South Africa ‘A’ victory in the final midweek match. 

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

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Warren Gatland

Gatland had questioned why the Sale man had not been shown a card with Erasmus responding in kind with a clip of an Owen Farrell tackle.

If coaches taking to firing off 280-characters to question refereeing decisions felt like the opening of a can of worms, the World Cup winner perhaps felt somewhat emboldened after seeing Gatland’s more traditional media pressure  questioning the appointment of Marius Jonker as TMO — loom large once the dust settled on a five-point Test match where the Boks saw two tries chalked off and Hamish Watson lucky to escape a card for a tip tackle on Willie Le Roux. 

For while, head coach Jacques Nienaber was gracious in defeat and Erasmus appeared to follow suit on his verified account. The mystery of ‘Jaco Johan’ on Sunday night muddied the waters. 

The account, one of only three followed by Erasmus and seemingly using the same analysis software, posted a 1 minute and 21 seconds clip of decisions viewed as questionable that went against South Africa.

That the tweet brought a response from Erasmus only further raised suspicions that a man who only 19 months ago was lifting the World Cup was having a conversation with himself, but there was no such ambiguity when he later was back on his own account to post: “Cheslin is obviously played in the air and clearly not direct into touch!! More importantly for youngsters watching this clip!!!! Please never move or touch an injured player on the ground, its reckless and dangerous!” alongside a clip of a tackle made by Ali Price on the South African winger who was then dragged to his feet by Mako Vunipola.

“Being a bit of a dinosaur myself and not being on Twitter and things, I’m hearing lots of hearsay,” said the Lions defence coach Steve Tandy when asked if he’d ever consider doing similar.

“Ultimately it’s his viewpoint. We thought the officials did a really good job at the weekend and if there’s anything we need to bring up, we’ll go through the appropriate channels.

“It’s a tough job and I know everyone moans around certain decisions. There’s always frustration and we get it as coaches.

“It is a tough job out there for the officials. If we can keep to the proper channels, I think that is probably the best way around that because it’s a tough job for the players, the coaches, and it’s definitely tough for the referees too.”

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Back in the real rather than digital world, Gatland will name his side for the second Test this morning. Wyn Jones, who pulled out of Saturday’s win a day prior with a shoulder injury having originally been slated to start at loosehead, remains a doubt but Tandy added that there are no plans to call out another prop with Rory Sutherland and Mako Vunipola set to continue to hold the fort.

Dan Biggar is in the return to play protocols but Finn Russell is back in training.


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