Rassie Erasmus has come to the end of the World Rugby ban from all rugby activity after his infamous 62-minute video in which he criticised the governing body’s match officials – in particular Australian referee Nic Berry – after the first British & Irish Lions series Test in July 2021.
Erasmus was able to resume most Springbok job-related activities from mid-January, but will only be able to be involved on match-days from October onwards.
The widely-circulated video led to one of the biggest controversies the game has seen, while in an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, Erasmus reveals what a toll it took on him and his family.
“I want people to know that I’m not this monster that I’ve been portrayed as,” he said in an interview with highly-regarded England-based writer Nik Simon.
“Did you know my sister lives in Reading? She’s a social worker for the NHS. Fully invested in the English life. She loves the Royal Family, sings God Save the Queen and would stand outside clapping for the old guy, Sir Tom, who walked up and down his garden 100 times during the lockdown.
“After what happened during the Lions tour, it felt like her family in the UK were the only people outside of South Africa who didn’t hate me. How do you think that makes you feel? It feels awful, man….
“Listen, I have never been a suit-and-tie guy who claims to be a saint. I have never said I will be a life coach. I have never had slogans like ‘better people make better rugby players’. I have never said I’m the world’s greatest father. Yeah, I’ve always been a bit naughty and enjoyed a giggle but I’ve always been an honest guy.
“People think I leaked that video. I didn’t. Who leaks something like that? Why would I screw up my whole career to do that? I’ve got twin girls, 18 years old, who are at school and they hear other parents telling them how their dad had f***** it all up.
“My mum is at an old-age home and they’re showing her articles saying, ‘Rassie’s lost it, he’s got depression, he’s drunk’. They think those things because they are indoctrinated that I leaked that video. I want to tell the world that, swearing on my youngest child’s life, I did not leak that video.
“Many people have already made up their mind. How do you change people’s perception when World Rugby have found me guilty and banned me for 12 months? I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I just want them to know what really happened.”
Prior to the second Test against the Lions, after the video had become public, Erasmus also reveals that he isolated himself away from the rest of the team.
“Before that second Test I was crying in my room. I cried out of fear. I was afraid. If we had lost the second Test can you imagine the s*** I would have got from my own people?
“I would have been the guy who messed it up. I would have been finished. It was the scariest night of my career. The most intense week of my life. I was too nervous to get on the bus with the players. I drove in a separate car.”
Below is the timeline to recap how Rassie Erasmus case unfolded:
Thursday, 22 July 2021 – World Rugby appoints Marius Jonker as TMO for the Test series after Brendon Pickerill is forced to withdraw because of Covid-19 disruption.
Friday, 23 July – One day before the first Test, reports emerge simultaneously in all major British & Irish news outlets that Gatland is ‘furious’ about Jonker’s appointment.
Saturday, 24 July – First Test. A number of controversial refereeing decisions and inconsistencies go against the Springboks. Siya Kolisi later admits he felt disrespected by referee Nic Berry.
Sunday, 25 July – Springbok management attempt to contact World Rugby and Nic Berry for clarity. WR doesn’t respond, while Erasmus later states that Nic Berry was “asleep” at the time he tried to get hold of him the Sunday after the first Test.
Monday, 26 July – The new training week starts for the Springboks but World Rugby has yet to provide any feedback from Saturday’s game.
Tuesday, 27 July – With only three on-field training sessions remaining before the second Test, World Rugby provides its feedback from the first Test. Erasmus makes the now infamous video in response to what he deemed to be insufficient clarity.
Thursday, 29 July – Rassie Erasmus’ video to World Rugby is leaked online.
Saturday, 31 July – Second Test. The Springboks bounce back with a convincing victory in an ill-spirited affair with plenty of off-the-ball incidents.
Monday, 2 August – World Rugby confirms that both Erasmus and SA Rugby will face a disciplinary hearing as a result of the leaked video.
Saturday, 7 August – Third Test. Springboks seal the series with a 19-16 victory in the final Test.
Tuesday, 24 August – Erasmus’ disciplinary hearing commences. His lawyers maintain that he did not leak the video.
Thursday, 26 August – Springboks release a media statement saying that Erasmus would not be travelling with the side to Australia for the Rugby Championship to allow the players to remain focused.
Saturday, 6 November – With the case dragging on, Erasmus appears in the coaches box as the Boks fight back to claim a win over Wales in the opening game of the end-of-year tour.
Saturday, 13 November – Rassie returns to his role as a water carrier for the game against Scotland, with some criticising him for his sideline ‘coaching’.
Wednesday, 17 November – Erasmus receives a double suspension from World Rugby, with SA Rugby stating they will appeal the verdict.
Thursday, 25 November – SA Rugby and Erasmus withdraw their appeal, and apologise publicly to the officials. The matter is considered closed.
Saturday, 1 January 2022 – Erasmus takes to Twitter once again to reiterate that it’s time to “forget 2019 and focus 100% on 2023”.
Saturday, 15 January 2022 – Erasmus’ 60-day ban officially draws to a close, opening the door for him to resume the majority of his duties from Monday, 17 January