Jacques Nienaber breaks silence on Rassie Erasmus ban

Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber has broken his silence on the latest match day ban preventing South African director of rugby Rassie Erasmus from being involved in this Saturday’s Autumn Nations Series showdown with England. South Africa are in London to round off their four-Test tour but they were rocked last Thursday when World Rugby reacted to the DoR’s sarcastic criticism of match officials on Twitter following the losses to Ireland and France.

The two-game ban prevented Erasmus from taking part in any match day activity in relation to the Test games versus Italy last Saturday in Genoa and England this coming weekend, and it also barred him from engagement with media and social media in relation to match officials .

The Springboks refused at last Friday’s captain’s run in Italy to take questions on this latest suspension for Erasmus, following on from his ten-month ban issued last November for match official criticisms during the British and Irish Lions tour.

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There were no queries regarding Erasmus post-game on Saturday but the hot topic was finally addressed by Nienaber at his Springboks team announcement media briefing in London on Tuesday. Having named an XV showing four changes from the 63-21 win over the Italians, the head coach conducted a two-part media session, initially taking questions from an online audience before switching over to take questions from media who were present in-person at the team hotel in Teddington.

It was at the end of the 15-minute online segment when Nienaber was asked whether the Erasmus ban had unsettled the Springboks and rather than duck the matter with a no-comment answer, he embraced the query and gave the following answer: “In terms of Rassie’s ban, no, listen, from our side we focus on rugby, you know.

“I guess there probably be a lot of questions about the ban and for me as a coach, yes, I don’t want to go into those things. I’ll probably focus on rugby more than not but yeah, for us, that is a tight-knit unit, a tight-knit team. Everybody knows exactly what is going on, we are open and transparent to everybody and for us that probably holds, that (everyone in the Springboks) knows all the facts.

“It’s sometimes for us I don’t want to say it is disappointing, what would the right word be? It’s sometimes for us, yeah, maybe disappointing is the right word when there are only certain facts that go out and then people from the outside, which obviously only have those facts available, they form opinion and give opinion on something that happened and obviously, they don’t know all the facts.

“So yeah, it’s quite sad if you think about it, if all the facts were out there that people will probably form a different opinion. But like I rightly say, I’m not pointing fingers at anybody, I don’t want to get involved in this but for us as a group, players, management and staff members within the Springboks team, we know about everything, we are transparent, we share everything with the players and we know the facts.

“Unfortunately, yes things went that way (with Erasmus getting banned) but for us, the main thing is to focus on rugby to make sure we prepare our players mentally to be ready for a big Test against England on Saturday.”

It was then that the media briefing opened to questions from the floor and there was an immediate follow-up question on what facts the general public is allegedly missing about Erasmus. “I think it will probably come out. You know there is a lot of confidentiality that we are not allowed to talk about, especially with media. Obviously, you guys [those media] would know that.

“I’m not the only coach to say that – Eddie (Jones) said that before. But listen, it is stuff that we can’t discuss so, unfortunately, it is what is it, but we know the facts. Obviously, we shared with the players, we shared with everyone in the group, but there will only be a certain amount of facts that do go out.”

Are you concerned the view of the Springboks outside the camp is diminishing? “Again, we know what happens within us. We can’t control narratives of other people’s opinions about it. We can’t control it so whatever people think about us they think about us but we know what happens inside, how we are and how tight we are as a group. That is all was can control.”

It was at this juncture that the Springboks media briefing organizer stepped in to shut down any further questions on the Erasmus ban. “Guys, can I ask, this is a team announcement press conference, it’s not a Rassie press conference,” she said. “I think Jacques has been asked enough about that. We have got 20 minutes, can we get to the rugby stuff?”

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