Jacques Nienaber has insisted Rassie Erasmus’s latest ban will have no effect when the Springboks face England at Twickenham on Saturday, adding “all the facts” have yet to be made public.
Erasmus, South Africa’s director of rugby, is serving a two-game matchday ban handed out by World Rugby following his criticism of refereeing decisions during the ongoing Autumn Nations Series on social media.
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As a result, Erasmus missed the Springboks’ 63-21 win over Italy in Genoa last weekend and the 50-year-old, who guided South Africa to 2019 World Cup glory, will not be at Twickenham this weekend either.
But Nienaber, speaking after naming his team to play England, told reporters on Tuesday that Erasmus’s latest suspension had no bearing on his team’s morale.
“In terms of Rassie’s ban, no, from our side we focus on rugby,” he said.
Former Springbok flanker Erasmus has only recently completed a stadium ban following a World Rugby suspension for his infamous hour-long video criticizing referee Nic Berry’s performance in the first Test between South Africa and the British and Irish Lions last year.
That did not stop Erasmus from publishing several videos on social media that appeared to question decisions made by referee Wayne Barnes during the Springboks’ recent 30-26 loss to France on November 12.
He had made similar comments on social media following South Africa’s defeat by Ireland a week earlier.
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Erasmus said accusations his videos had led to threats of violence against experienced English referee Barnes were “completely unfounded”.
World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin said the governing body feared Erasmus’s comments could encourage angry supporters at all levels pf the game to make vitriolic posts of their own towards referees.
Meanwhile John Smit, South Africa’s 2007 World Cup-winning captain, told the BBC that Erasmus’s conduct has made the Boks “so easy to dislike”.
“Are you telling me Rassie is the only coach frustrated by a call that has gone the wrong way?” said Smith.
“Something has to be done. There has to be a line that has to be drawn.”
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Nienaber, however, said much of the debate about Erasmus’s posts was taking place without knowledge of the full facts.
“Sometimes it’s, I don’t want to say disappointing, what would the right word be? Maybe disappointing is the right word, when there’s only certain facts that go out and then people from the outside, who only have those facts available, form an opinion and give an opinion on something that happened and obviously they don’t know all the facts ,” he said.
“It is quite sad if you think about it. I think if all the facts are out there that people will probably form a different opinion.”
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Nienaber, pressed on what facts were missing, added: “I think it probably will come out.
“There’s a lot of confidentiality that we’re not allowed to talk about with media. It’s stuff we can’t discuss but we know the facts, we share with the players and everyone within the group.”
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With Saturday’s game taking place outside World Rugby’s official window, Nienaber has made four personnel changes to the starting XV that thrashed Italy 63-21 in Genoa last weekend, with Makazole Mapimpi, Jesse Kriel, Evan Roos and Eben Etzebeth all recalled.
The Springboks will be without Cheslin Kolbe, Andre Esterhuizen, Cobus Reinach, Jasper Wiese and Vincent Koch, who have all returned to their respective English and French clubs.
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