‘Rassie sledged a Scotland player’ – Gregor Townsend

Date published: November 19 2021 - Planet Rugby

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend approves of the ban handed to SA Rugby director Rassie Erasmus for his infamous video released after the first Test between the Springboks and British and Irish Lions.

Townsend further claimed that he had been shown footage of Erasmus “sledging” a Scottish player, during last Saturday’s clash between the Scots and Springboks at Murrayfield.

The 48-year-old, who was the Lions’ attack coach, has called on the authorities to combat coaching staff trying to intimidate opposing players and match officials from the touchline after describing Erasmus’s actions as a “character assassination”.

Erasmus returned to his position as a water boy against Scotland at Murrayfield after being absent from the role since the final Test of the Boks series against the Lions.

Rugby’s values under threat

Townsend believes the values of rugby is being tarnished by this kind of behaviour and is concerned that the criticism of Nic Berry by Erasmus took so long to deal with.

The World Cup-winning coach has been banned from all rugby activity for two months after a total of six charges of misconduct were upheld.

Erasmus is also suspended from all coaching, media engagement, and matchday activities until September 2022.

Townsend has no sympathy for the Boks’ head honcho and approves of the ban.

“That was a really bad episode for our game,” he said. “I was there at the time so I experienced what was going on.

“I have since spoken to Nic Berry about it and he went through a really tough time and so did his family. That was a real shame and a pity that these things can happen in our sport. I don’t think it could have been allowed to continue.

“Those antics – we can’t fall into that trap of winning at all costs and putting pressure on individuals.

“It has been a while for that decision to come. That would be my only frustration, that it has taken so long to come to this decision.”

Townsend’s frustration with Erasmus only intensified after the South African’s behaviour in Saturday’s encounter that ended 30-15 in favour of the Springboks.

“I wasn’t really aware of it at the time but someone showed me a video of him making comments about one of our players, a character assassination or sledging or whatever,” he explained. “That’s not the role of coaches; it’s not the role of anybody on the sidelines to be doing that.

“If we want our sport to go down a different route then we allow these things to happen. That was really disappointing to see and I know it wasn’t the only incident over the weekend, over that game.”

With the verdict for Erasmus’s hearing only being released this week, Townsend feels World Rugby should have resolved the situation earlier.

“I feel that whatever happens around a game, whether it’s a player or a coach or someone related to the game like a physio, decisions have to be made more quickly,” he said.

“I would urge World Rugby to make further changes. Why do we need coaches on the sidelines? If they are on the sidelines they have to live up to certain behaviours and values that we pride in our game, which sadly I felt over the summer and since then have been lost.”