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Monday, November 28, 2022

Rassie's suspension is over, but was it worth it?

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Johannesburg – Rassie Erasmus is a free man! Free to immerse himself in the Springboks, that is, after his Rugby ban for assassinating the refereeing of Nic Berry ended on Friday.

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It was a year ago that the eccentric SA Rugby Director rocked the rugby world with his infamous video, in which he annihilated the refereeing performance of the Australian referee in the Boks’ first Test defeat to the British and Irish Lions.

Erasmus was consequently banned from all rugby-related activities for two months and any match-day activity at all levels of the game until 30 September 2022.

The first part of the ban was fun for Erasmus, who posted a series of social media clips of him up to all sorts of amusing antics, including teaching his bulldog new tricks and performing some awkward dance moves, but it was no joke when he could not join the Boks for the series against Wales earlier this year and then the Rugby Championship.

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Before his ban he could not have been closer to the action — in fact, sometimes he was in the middle of it as the team water boy — and his total divorce from team training sessions and the matches themselves ultimately impacted in some way on the team performance on the day, with respect to Jacques Nienaber and the rest of the coaching staff.

The maverick Erasmus is the heart and the soul of this Springbok team and he will be welcomed back with open arms when the team departs for Dublin for the November tour.

Incidentally, the Boks play Ireland on November 5 — Erasmus’ 50th birthday — and what a present it would be for him if the team can topple the No 1-ranked team in the world with him firmly in their midst, although his water boy activity remains banned after Rugby changed its laws regarding the team management venturing onto the field of play.

On Friday night, as Erasmus raises a toast to his freedom, he will wonder if it was all worth it, and the answer is probably yes and no.

Yes, because the Boks were treated more fairly by the officials for the second and third Tests against the Lions, both won by the Boks, but in the long run nothing has changed as far as the standard of refereeing is concerned.

In fact, if possible it has got worse. The Rugby Championship, alone, saw some excruciatingly bad refereeing displays, and a year out from the Cup that is a grave concern.

Two months ago, rugby legend David Campese described modern rugby as “a joke” because today referees award four times more penalties per game than they did in the ‘80s, thus ensuring the flow of the game is perpetually disrupted.

And that was one of Erasmus’s chief points in his video — officials have forgotten how to referee the spirit of the game and have grown obsessed with blowing the pea out of the whistle.

Sport

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