John Smit: Rassie Erasmus has not approached referee criticism correctly

Dylan Coetzee
Rassie Erasmus Springboks director of rugby v Ireland 2022 - PA.jpg

Legendary Springboks captain John Smit admits that director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has not approached his criticism of referees correctly.

Erasmus received a two-game ban for Twitter posts criticising the decisions of match officials in the Autumn Nations Series. The former flanker had just completed a lengthy suspension for the infamous video where he criticised the performance of referee Nic Berry in depth after the Springboks’ first Test against the British and Irish Lions in 2021.

Something has to give

Smit admits the tactician’s approach makes the Springboks an unlikeable team and that “a line has to be drawn” when players or coaches discuss referees.

“The way he has approached this is not right,” Smit told BBC’s Rugby Union Daily Podcast. “Are you telling me Rassie is the only coach frustrated by a call that has gone the wrong way?

“Something has to be done. A line that has to be drawn, and he is making it difficult for his team. It’s made the Boks, as a rugby team, so easy to dislike.”

Penalise players for questioning referee

Smit goes as far as to say that players should be penalised when questioning the referee and that power should be given back to the match officials.

“I honestly believe there should be a penalty for any player who thinks they can help the referee ref the game,” he said.

“The referees have to get control back. Everyone seems to think they have an influence over what the referee should be doing. When I was captain, when anyone else spoke they were disrespecting me, and the referee.

“Refereeing rugby is incredibly difficult. What we want is consistency and respect, and I think when we start giving that back to the referee the pressure will be off them and we will have more consistent performances.

“I would like referees to get back in charge and not have to defend themselves the whole time.

“Obviously we would all like referees to have perfect games every weekend. But I think it starts with the players. We have this very masculine aggression in the men’s game, and if you watched the women’s World Cup final, you didn’t see any of that going on.

“Maybe it is time for everyone across the board to do a little ego check, reset the clock, and get back to what made rugby great, which is being respectful.”

READ MORE: Autumn Nations Series Team of the Week: Georgia lead the way while Scotland and New Zealand also have strong representation