South Africa’s director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, has again lashed out at the British & Irish Lions on social media, accusing Mako Vunipola of “reckless and dangerous” behaviour towards Cheslin Kolbe.
Erasmus, who was head coach for South Africa’s 2019 World Cup triumph, posted a clip from the Lions’ 22-17 victory on Saturday in which Kolbe is tackled by Ali Price as he contests a high ball. The Springbok winger is then unceremoniously picked up from the floor by Vunipola.
“Cheslin is obviously played in the air and clearly not direct into touch!!” tweeted Erasmus. “More importantly for youngsters watching this clip!!!! Please never move or touch an injured player on the ground, its reckless and dangerous!” The 48-year-old used a similar method to question the legality of Owen Farrell’s tackling during the Lions’ defeat to South Africa A earlier in the series Neither Price, Vunipola or Farrell were sanctioned for their tackles.
The Lions sought to brush off Erasmus’s claims, while the Springboks also distanced themselves in public, but did confirm they would be speaking to the match officials this week, as is standard practice. The Lions said they would take up any grievances through the appropriate channels while Vunipola, who is pushing hard for a start in Saturday’s Second Test with Warren Gatland due to name his team on Tuesday, brushed off the criticism.
Erasmus has already provoked the Lions by acting as a water carrier, thereby enabling him to enter the field of play and pass messages directly to South Africa players.
The incident with Kolbe happened on the hour mark with South Africa leading 17-16. Vunipola, who impressed after coming off the bench, said: “I remember trying to get the ball in but I saw that he’d gone down. I guess it’s one of those things, in the heat of the moment, you react how you would normally. He seemed to be alright, he played on in the game, so it wasn’t that reckless, was it? I guess if he was really hurt then it was a bit reckless, but I just felt like the collision wasn’t that bad. If I did hurt him then I do apologise but as I mentioned, in the heat of the moment, you just react as you would naturally.”
On Sunday, meanwhile, Erasmus retweeted a video posted by the user Jaco Johan which highlights calls that went in the Lions’ favour during the First Test, alongside the caption: “Respect your attitude in defeat, but there were some questionable calls. I’ll highlight a few @Springboks @lionsofficial.” The video shows a number of incidents, including Hamish Watson’s tip tackle on Willie le Roux and a late hit from Tom Curry on Faf de Klerk.
Jaco Johan’s social media history has aroused suspicion. The account had only once tweeted before despite being set up in 2016. It has also liked a tweet by Munster – when Erasmus and the current South Africa head coach, Jacques Nienaber, were working for the Irish province. Furthermore, Jaco Johan uses the same type of graphics – a yellow circle – to highlight the alleged foul play as Erasmus does on his official account.
Later on Monday, Erasmus retweeted another video from a bona fide account highlighting calls from that went against the Springboks, writing: “Is this you again Jaco Johan ? Enough!!! I think they get it now”.
Erasmus was initially magnanimous in defeat on Saturday, saying that there were “no excuses” and that the Lions’ victory was well deserved. He also responded to Jaco Johan’s tweet by saying: “Thanks. This is rugby – sometimes calls go for you and other times they dont.”
Vunipola only came into the Test 23 last week after Wyn Jones was ruled out on Friday due to a shoulder injury. Jones is unlikely to recover for the second Test while Dan Biggar continues to go through the head injury return-to-play protocols. Finn Russell has recovered from an achilles injury and is available again if required to cover.
‘Reckless and dangerous’: South Africa’s Erasmus posts footage criticising Lions