South Africa's director of rugby Rassie Erasmus is to face a misconduct hearing after publicly criticising the match officials following their first Test defeat to the British and Irish Lions.

Erasmus accused the Lions of "reckless and dangerous" play in their 22-17 win last month and hit out at the standard of refereeing from Nic Berry.

The 48-year-old made the claims in a 62-minute clip posted on social media as he highlighted what he felt were a number of calls that went against South Africa.

He also retweeted clips from an anonymous Twitter user, alleged to be one of his own accounts, highlighting "questionable calls" made by the tourists.

World Rugby has now cited Erasmus for his comments and he, along with South African Rugby, will face a judicial hearing.

"Match officials are the backbone of the sport, and without them there is no game," a statement from the rugby governing body read on Monday.

"World Rugby condemns any public criticism of their selection, performance or integrity which undermines their role, the well established and trust-based coach-officials feedback process, and more importantly, the values that are at the heart of the sport.

"Having conducted a full review of all the available information, World Rugby is concerned that individuals from both teams have commented on the selection and/or performance of match officials.

"However, the extensive and direct nature of the comments made by Rassie Erasmus within a video address, in particular, meets the threshold to be considered a breach of World Rugby regulation 18 (misconduct and code of conduct) and will now be considered by an independent disciplinary panel.

"World Rugby has reminded the management of both teams of the importance of this area and their obligations regarding the values of the sport."

In response, SA Rugby posted a brief statement on Twitter, which read: "SA Rugby has noted the charges brought by World Rugby and will respond through the designated channels. There will be no further comment from SA Rugby until the process is complete."

South Africa defeated the Lions 27-9 in a fiery encounter at the weekend to level the three-match series at 1-1 and set up a decider in Cape Town on Saturday.

Erasmus, who has doubled up as a water carrier, may still be present for that showdown as a hearing date has not yet been set by World Rugby.

South Africa must take their frustration over officiating out on the British and Irish Lions when then they attempt to keep the series alive on Saturday.

The Lions roared back in the second half of an attritional first Test at Cape Town Stadium last weekend to take a 1-0 lead with a 22-17 victory.

South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has had a busy week since the world champions' seven-match winning run came to an end.

Erasmus accused the Lions of "reckless and dangerous" play and used social media to highlight "questionable calls" from the officials during an absorbing contest.

The 48-year-old fanned the flames further on Thursday, offering to "step away" in an hour-long video in which he stated the Springboks should be given an "equal chance" by officials in the remainder of series.

It was the turn of assistant coach Mzwandile Stick to have his say on Friday, accusing the Lions of “destroying the dignity of the series" by starting the war of words prior to the first Test.

Siya Kolisi then backed up Erasmus' claim that the Springboks captain felt disrespected by referee Nic Berry, who might be glad it will be New Zealander Ben O'Keeffe on duty this weekend.

The Lions have taken a different approach as they look to stretch their run of series without defeat to three for the first time since 1959, giving their backing to O'Keeffe.

Full-back Stuart Hogg said: "In the short time I've been Scotland captain Ben O'Keeffe has been one of the best referees I've had to deal with.

"He almost coaches you round the field at the same time. When we ask questions he's very calm in his answers and is good at communicating.

"That's a reason why a large majority of his games when he's involved are allowed to flow, you're allowed to get on with it, and he helped me massively in the couple of games we've had him when I've been leading the side.

"Everyone is entitled to the opinion of referees, but they have a huge amount of respect from us as players. I'd hate to do the job if I'm honest!

"But Ben O'Keeffe has been one of the best referees I've had the opportunity to deal with as captain."

South Africa have handed number eight Jasper Wiese his first Test start as one of three changes, with prop Steven Kitshoff steps in to win his 50th cap alongside the returning Frans Malherbe.

Prop Mako Vunipola, scrum-half Conor Murray and centre Chris Harris come into the Lions team.

 

 

KOLISI: TIME TO STAND UP

While the hurting Springboks were quick to point the finger at the officials, skipper Kolisi knows they must improve after squandering a lead in the first Test.

"Of course, we feel a lot of pressure, but we must focus on what we can control and fix the mistakes we made," said Kolisi.

"We responded well this week and trained well, and we are looking forward to the match. We know we have to stand up in times like these."

He added: "There are some similarities to losing against New Zealand in our opening game in the World Cup, but this is different because this tournament is only played every 12 years, while the World Cup is played every four years, so we may not have another opportunity.

"We have to turn it up and we are looking forward to the match."

 

LIONS PREPARED FOR BOKS BACKLASH

Robin McBryde has been looking back as well as forward as the Lions prepare for another almighty battle, reading up on the 1974 tour of South Africa.

The Lions secured a 3-0 whitewash 47 years ago, but they did not go down without a huge fight and forwards coach McBryde knows it will be no different this time around. 

"They will go back to their physical nature. It’s what they did in 1974 after losing that first Test," he said.

"There's a term they have which means climbing in, to get stuck in. I'm sure that’s what they'll be looking to do on Saturday – to get stuck into us.

"They're a very proud nation who will be looking to come out with all guns blazing."

 

South Africa : Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (captain), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jasper Wiese.

Replacements : Malcolm Marx, Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch, Lood de Jager, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Herschel Jantjies, Damian Willemse.

British and Irish Lions : Stuart Hogg, Anthony Watson, Chris Harris, Robbie Henshaw, Duhan van der Merwe, Dan Biggar, Conor Murray; Mako Vunipola, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Jack Conan.

Replacements : Ken Owens, Rory Sutherland, Kyle Sinckler, Tadhg Beirne, Taulupe Faletau, Ali Price, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- The Lions have lost just two of their previous 13 games in Cape Town (W10, D1), a run that stretches back to the beginning of the 1974 tour.
- South Africa conceded 14 penalties against the Lions in the first Test, including nine inside their own half of the pitch; both tallies were their most in a Test since June 2018 against England.
- The Lions are unbeaten in their three Tests (W2, D1), their best run since a six game spell spanning the 1971 and 1974 tours (W4, D2).
- The tourists have lost just two series after winning the first Test (W10, D1) – against New Zealand in 1930 and Australia in 2001. They won four and drew one of their five such series against South Africa.

Rassie Erasmus has offered to "step away" from his role with South Africa for the remainder of the series against the British and Irish Lions in an extraordinary hour-long video.

Erasmus had accused the Lions of "reckless and dangerous" play via social media earlier this week following the 22-17 victory for Warren Gatland's side in the first Test at Cape Town Stadium.

He had also been active on social media 24 hours after Saturday's game, retweeting clips from a user highlighting "questionable calls" made during proceedings.

South Africa's director of rugby has now taken aim again at the officials ahead of the second Test, stating that the Springboks should have an "equal chance" in the remainder of the series as he revealed his readiness to move aside.

Erasmus said: "I have previous encounters where I've made mistakes, saying things in public about referees and that normally comes back to bite you.

"But in this instance, the Lions only comes around every 12 years. I think it should be fair that I'll step away from these last two Test matches, but let the Springboks and the Lions have an equal chance on the field when it comes to laws, respect and the way that players get treated."

He added: "If you think this is going over the top and it shouldn't go out to the media, then I did this in my personal capacity, not as part of the Springboks and I'll withdraw myself from the Springbok management team."

Erasmus felt that South Africa captain Siya Kolisi was not treated with the same level of respect as Lions counterpart Alun Wyn Jones in the opening Test.

He said: "When Siya spoke to the referee and when Alun Wyn spoke to the referee, I felt the reactions on how they treated both those players… there was a vast difference between who was taken seriously and who wasn't.

"It's comical, the way the respect the assistant referees and the refs is different between the Lions and South Africa. There was a vast difference between who he was taking serious and who he wasn't taking serious."

Erasmus acted as water carrier in the first Test but reiterated he is prepared to move out of the limelight.

"If this causes that I'm not allowed to be water carrier that's fine, I'll step away," he said. "If we're going to get a fine, I'll step away from the management team.

"If this means the Springboks will get in trouble, I'll say I did this personally, because I believe in fairness, the system and two teams having an equal chance of competing in a match.

"I'm not saying the referee was a cheat at all, saying we just wanted clarity on a Sunday night, which we now have on a Tuesday, which I personally am not very convinced with the clarity we had from (referee) Nic Berry."

Erasmus was also eager to point out that Gatland had questioned why Faf de Klerk had not been sent off in the Lions' defeat to South Africa A earlier in the tour, while he also took issue at the decision to appoint Marius Jonker as TMO in the first Test, a move made after original selection Brendon Pickerill was ruled out due to travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"I think where things for us got cluttered and frustrating was when the Lions started moaning about officiating on the field, where for example Faf got a yellow card in the South Africa A game," Erasmus said.

"The Lions criticised that and said they wanted clarity from World Rugby where it should have been a red card and was it not direct head contact. We had in the same game lots of clips of the Lions making mistakes, just like us. Warren openly said it should have been a red card.

"Obviously then he talks to the media and according to me is that you don't talk to the media, you talk to World Rugby. Again, it is a bit of a grey area. If you wanted to go in such depth about Faf's.

"We just put two on social media. We saw it as banter. Before a big Test match, they put some pressure, we put some pressure on.

"Where we got a bit worried was this narrative that we are this dirty team and all the chat was that the South Africans want to play physical and that’s why they highlighted the Faf thing.

"When the TMO was drawn and Marius Jonker was appointed, the Lions made such a fuss of it. We don't want this negativity in South Africa."

British and Irish Lions star Mako Vunipola and defence coach Steve Tandy have jumped to the tourists' defence after Rassie Erasmus took to social media to criticise their conduct in the first Test against South Africa on Saturday.

The Springboks' director of rugby posted and interacted with multiple posts on Twitter in the aftermath of the 22-17 defeat in Cape Town as he dissected what he thought to be a poor refereeing performance and an ill-disciplined outing from Warren Gatland's men.

The latest clip posted by Erasmus involved Ali Price's initial tackle on Cheslin Kolbe near the touchline before Vunipola lifts the South Africa winger off the turf – an act Erasmus cited as "reckless and dangerous".

The 2019 World Cup-winning coach added: "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."

Vunipola, in contrast, insisted he was trying to inject energy by regaining the ball as the Lions looked to get back into proceedings, while the prop also offered Kolbe his apologies should he be injured.

"I remember just trying to get the ball," the Lions forward said. "I saw he had gone down and it was done in the heat of the moment. He seemed alright. He played on for the rest of the match.

"I guess if he was really hurt, it was a bit reckless. But I felt the collision wasn't that bad. We were behind at the time and we wanted some tempo. If I did hurt him, I apologise."

This is not the first time that Erasmus' social media posts have caused both controversy and confusion.

A day prior to the Vunipola accusation, Erasmus retweeted a post from an anonymous user which branded some of the match officials' calls as "questionable" against the reigning world champions.

Erasmus added to the highlights package of the officials' apparent mistakes: "Thanks. This is rugby - sometimes calls go for you and other times they don't."

Lions defence coach Tandy, who admitted his lack of social media literacy, responded by offering the match officials praise and insisted the tourists would lodge any complaints through the relevant governing bodies.

"Being a bit of a dinosaur myself and not being on Twitter and things, I'm hearing lots of hearsay," Tandy commented. "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.

"Every team can go through micro details and analyse it. We do it ourselves, but it is then going through the appropriate channels, raising the ones that are relevant and not making it about every small detail, just making sure every one of the major ones is correct.

"It’s a tough job and I know everyone moans around certain decisions. There’s always frustration, and we get it as coaches. But if you can keep that, because 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."

The Lions, who have now won the opening Test in four of their last seven tours, return to action on Saturday as they look to secure an unassailable lead in the three-Test series.

Rassie Erasmus lit the blue touch paper by accusing the British and Irish Lions of "reckless and dangerous" play in the first Test against South Africa.

The Lions fought back in the second half at Cape Town Stadium to beat the Springboks 22-17 on Saturday in an attritional contest to open the three-match series.

Erasmus posted a clip on Twitter on Monday showing Ali Price tackling Cheslin Kolbe close to the touchline late on, before Mako Vunipola picked the wing up off the floor.

South Africa's director of rugby wrote on his verified account: "Cheslin is obviously played in the air and clearly not in touch!

"More importantly for youngsters watching this clip, please never move or touch an injured player on the ground, it's reckless and dangerous.

"Leave this to the [medics]."

Erasmus had also been busy on social media on Sunday, retweeting clips from a user highlighting "questionable calls" by officials.

He wrote when retweeting one of the clips: "Thanks. This is rugby - sometimes calls go for you and other times they don't."

South Africa and the Lions lock horns again in the second Test at the same venue on Saturday.

Rassie Erasmus says South Africa will "explore any option" to ensure they do not miss out on facing the British and Irish Lions.

The Lions are scheduled to lock horns with the world champions in July and August, but the tour is in doubt due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Playing the series in the United Kingdom has been mooted as a potential alternative to the Lions flying out to South Africa.

Delaying the tour until next year could be another alternative and a decision is expected to be made next month, with talks among the Lions board ongoing.

South Africa's director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, who who coached the Springboks to Rugby World Cup glory in 2019, says the Webb Ellis Cup holders are willing to be flexible over where and when they take on the Lions.

"We desperately want to play the Lions, and we will do anything to play them," he said in a press conference.

"This series only comes around every 12 years. I have heard the different calls and opinions about the tour, and although we didn't play in the Rugby Championship because of player welfare, it was also because we knew there was this big series in 2021.

"If option one of playing in South Africa doesn't work out, we will go to option Z to make it happen.

"We don't want to lose out on the Lions series, we feel we deserve to play against them. I want to, Jacques Nienaber [Springboks head coach] wants to, the players want to. So from our side, we'll do anything.

"But yes, we will explore any option to play the Lions, we will play next year, we will play over there. This is the view from a player and management perspective."

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