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Rugby-Rassie Erasmus rejects accusation of coaching interference

·2-min read
Rugby World Cup - South Africa arrive in Johannesburg

By Mark Gleeson

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South African Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus has rejected suggestions he interferes too much in the Springbok coaching setup and should rather allow new coach Jacques Nienaber to get on with the job.

Former British & Irish Lions and England World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward wrote in a newspaper column after Saturday’s first test win for the Lions over South Africa in Cape Town that Erasmus should be suited up in the stands rather than coaching the players on the pitch in his new role as a "water carrier".

“Confusion at the top and a lack of demarcation between the roles of director of rugby and South African national team coach (are) killing the Springboks,” he wrote.

But Erasmus made short shrift of the accusation in a news conference appearance on Tuesday alongside Nienaber, who replaced him as coach after South Africa’s 2019 World Cup success.

“I don’t know if being a Sir is that important in South Africa as it is in England,” he responded first.

“That’s his opinion. Jacques and I are great mates. I’m the water carrier at this stage so he is higher than me in rank,” added Erasmus, as Nienaber sniggered alongside him.

“If you go and look at that match on Saturday, we almost scored a try in the 71st minute that was called back. (Had it been awarded) our working relationship might have been perfect and people would say it's working really well. I wouldn’t listen too much to Sir Clive Woodward, he doesn’t really matter to me.”

Erasmus said he had decided to appear alongside Nienaber at the conference as he anticipated questions about his social media activity (@RassieRugby), in which he has highlighted refereeing decisions and incidents from the Lions tour.

But he denied he was seeking to put pressure on match officials ahead of Saturday’s second test, where Ben O’Keeffe of New Zealand will take charge of the match and the South African Marius Jonker is the Television Match Official.

“When (Lions coach) Warren Gatland spoke last week about Marius Jonker it was weird for me that people would question Marius’s integrity," Erasmus said.

“It was a weird thing for me because say this week we point out that Ben O’Keeffe is a New Zealander and Warren is also a New Zealander ... we will never say that ... it wouldn’t sit well. The whole integrity of the game would be questioned, we would never do that.”

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

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