Australia rugby chiefs have hit out at Rassie Erasmus’ “unacceptable” 62-minute rant against British and Irish Lions series referee Nic Berry.
South Africa boss Erasmus offered to stand down from his rugby director role amid a wide-ranging monologue in which he launched an unprecedented attack on referee Berry.
The Springboks were left frustrated by several refereeing decisions by Berry in last weekend’s first Test, where the Lions prevailed 22-17 in Cape Town.
Global governing body World Rugby has sought an explanation from SA Rugby over Erasmus’ comments, with the Boks boss’ comments heaping pressure on officials for Saturday’s second Test.
And now Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos has leapt to the defence of compatriot Berry, insisting Erasmus’ comments threaten the spirit of the sport.
“Match officials form the very fabric of our game – simply, the game would not exist without them,” said Marinos.
“As a highly-regarded and respected international referee appointed by World Rugby, the attack on Nic’s integrity, character and reputation is unacceptable.
As a highly-regarded and respected international referee appointed by World Rugby, the attack on Nic’s integrity, character and reputation is unacceptableAndy Marinos, Rugby Australia chief executive
“We have been in contact with World Rugby, under whose auspices this Test Series sit, and understand that they are actively reviewing this matter as some facts presented were not accurate.
“It is important to ensure public attacks of this nature are not tolerated. We will continue to provide support to Nic at this time, as both his physical and mental well-being remains a priority for us.”
Erasmus addressed World Rugby’s head of referees Joel Jutge and rugby director Joe Schmidt in a rambling online rant, posted on Thursday.
Dressed in Springbok training gear, Erasmus offered detailed analysis on a host of decisions he believes Berry called incorrectly in last weekend’s first Test.
“There is a vast difference between who he was taking seriously and who he wasn’t taking seriously,” said Erasmus, critical of Berry’s treatment of South Africa captain Siya Kolisi.
“The way they listened to Siya compared to the way they listened to Alun Wyn was definitely not with the same respect. It shows the difference in attitude towards the Springboks and the Lions.
“If this means I get a fine I will step away from the management team. If this means the Springboks will be in trouble I will say I did this in isolation.”
Global game chiefs World Rugby hold a dim view on Erasmus’ rant, but have so far held back from launching an official investigation.
“World Rugby notes the comments made by Rassie Erasmus,” read a World Rugby statement.
“The nature of these will be raised with the union via the usual official channels and no further comment will be made at this stage.”