Rassie Erasmus remains adamant that he didn’t intentionally leak his now infamous 62-minute video in which he criticized the refereeing decisions in the first British & Irish Lions Test.
South Africa’s Director of Rugby landed himself in hot water after the video, in which – among several other things – he took aim at referee Nick Berry’s officiating, was leaked on social media.
But in a new interview with the Daily Mail, Erasmus once again insisted he was not responsible for the leak.
Rassie Erasmus was banned from all rugby activities for two months and all “match-day activities” until September 2022 by a World Rugby tribunal as a result of the video being made public.
“I want people to know that I’m not this monster that I’ve been portrayed as,” said the World Cup-winning coach.
“I have never been a suit-and-tie guy who claims to be a saint,” he continued.
“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 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.”
Erasmus said he only shared the link to the video, which appeared on the online platform Vimeo, to a select few people, and that someone else must have shared the link outside of the group.
He also noted that he had previously made similar videos discussing officiating, and that he was unsuccessful in trying to set up a meeting with Berry to talk about the match ahead of their team selection for the following week.
“So why would I make this one public when I don’t make any of the others public? I only sent it to Joel (Jutge, head if refereeing at World Rugby) and Joe (Schmidt, head of high performance at World Rugby), the ref, my CEO who was tour director, our head coach and my players. I submitted the video link to the restricted group using Vimeo, which is secure and safe.
“It was not possible for anyone to even search for the video on any search engine without the link. I have been using this platform for ages and there has never been a breach of confidentiality. If I wanted to leak it, there were many more effective ways to do it. Out of those I sent it to, only Joel and Joe were not in South Africa.”
TIMELINE TO RECAP HOW RASSIE ERASMUS CASE UNFOLDED:
Thursday, 22 July 2021 – World Rugby appoints Marius Jonker as TMO for the Test series after Brendan 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 Nick Berry.
Sunday, 25 July – Springbok management attempt to contact World Rugby and Nick Berry for clarity. WR doesn’t respond, while Erasmus later states that Nick 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 traveling 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 criticizing 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