Rassie Erasmus denies he is behind Jaco Johan Twitter account

South Africa director of rugby gives bizarre press conference ahead of second Test

Lions head coach Warren Gatland chats to South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus ahead of the first Test in Cape Town. Photograph:  David Rogers/Getty Images

Lions head coach Warren Gatland chats to South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus ahead of the first Test in Cape Town. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

 

Rassie Erasmus has denied he is one of the men behind the Jaco Johan Twitter account which he has been referencing on his own account in the last couple of weeks, despite suspiciously similar styles and graphics in them both.

The Jaco Johan burner account was set up in April 2016, the same month that Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber were appointed as the new director of rugby and defence coach respectively at Munster. Erasmus’s first name is Johan.

It had lain relatively idle until recently, before a flurry of videos highlighting supposed foul play by the Lions, which Erasmus has retweeted, and other Springboks grievances over decisions by officials.

Entertainment, of a fairly unusual kind on the day of team announcements, was guaranteed with the sight of Erasmus alongside Nienaber when the latter unveiled the Springboks selection.

“That’s actually why I’m at the press conference, sorry to Jacques but I knew he was probably going to get that question,” Erasmus said when asked if he was behind the Jaco Johan account.

“No I’m actually not Jaco Johan, I’m Rassie Erasmus. I actually follow Jaco Johan. He’s a big supporter of us. He’s been feeding me some really good clips for a while now, things that I’ve actually used in the past. He’s a very big supporter, a really funny guy and I quite enjoy the things that he does,” said a smiling Erasmus.

The former Munster head coach has become quite active on his own Twitter account in the last few weeks, engaging in dialogue with Jaco Johan and sending his congratulations to the Lions, while also posting a video of Ali Price supposedly taking Cheslin Kolbe out in the air and then of Mako Vunipola unceremoniously dragging a prone Kolbe to his feet by the scruff of his jersey, which Erasmus described as “reckless and dangerous”.

“Why am I so active on Twitter?” he repeated, when asked why. “I think I just retweeted two or three things I thought were accurate. And I tweeted twice just for a simple reason: as director of rugby the medical department is part of our department. I thought the way Cheslin was picked off the ground could have been a serious injury.

Rassie Erasmus, the South Africa director of rugby, acts as a water carrier as he instructions during the first Test. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
Rassie Erasmus, the South Africa director of rugby, acts as a water carrier as he instructions during the first Test. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

“We teach our primary-school children from any age or level that you leave a player as he is there, because it is dangerous. We wouldn’t like our Springbok players this Saturday to go and pick up every Lions player who is on their back.

“Otherwise I just thought the other tweet was, the Lions really deserved to win. They have gone through the same protocols as us, they are far away from home.

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“So it was only those two tweets, and then obviously I did retweet a few things that I thought were spot-on. When something makes sense to me I like to retweet it.”

The World Cup-winning head coach turned, supposedly, director of rugby, has been accused of undermining both the game in general and the four-man team of match officials in use for the Test series.

Asked if this was the case, a tad bizarrely he answered: “I think you are 100 per cent right. I think if someone goes and micro-analyses every non-decision which has not been taken then that’s awful. You can’t do that. The referee only had to be advised.

“But I think if you do analyse the things he is supposed to see, I think then you are actually supporting the integrity of the game. In the past we’ve found that when we talk in the media too much, it normally backfires for us.

“Warren talked last week about Marius Jonker, ” added Erasmus in reference to the Lions’ misgivings about the former South African referee being appointed as the TMO for the Tests.

“Warren is a great guy, I’ll tell you straight up, I always enjoy his company, he’s a good man. But it was weird for me that people would question Marius’s integrity.

“Say this weekend, Ben O’Keeffe is a New Zealander and Warren is also a New Zealander, we would never say that. It wouldn’t sit well. The whole integrity of the game would be questioned, and we would never do that. What we are trying to do is find out from World Rugby exactly some decisions which we got wrong and some things we could have done better in the game. That’s what we’re focusing on.

“I was baffled when Marius was appointed as the TMO. I’m actually very good friends, close, close friends with Marius. I know him really well so I actually made a point not to speak to him before that match because I felt it was such a tough thing for him to do. But I did feel when he was mentioned because he’s SA, TMOing for the SA team, that didn’t sit well for me to be honest with you.

“As I said, I know last year in the Rugby Championship, New Zealand and Australia played with New Zealand and Australian referees against each other, and that’s the way things happened with Covid.

“So I don’t know if World Rugby should interfere, but if Ben O’Keeffe makes wrong decisions on Saturday, you wouldn’t hear us saying it’s because he’s from New Zealand and so is Warren Gatland.”

The Lions have seemingly been somewhat bemused by Erasmus’s sudden use of Twitter to air his grievances rather than, as Steve Tandy suggested, he go through the official channels.

“That takes a bit of a while, we tried to do that on Sunday but they didn’t come back to us, and on Monday they didn’t come back to us. This morning we got the report back,” Erasmus explained.

“So when you get it only on a Tuesday morning it does disrupt your week in terms of team selection and what things you want to rectify and the tactics Jacques wanted to employ.

“We really tried hard to make contact with them [World Rugby] on Sunday night, we sent through some clips asking for some guidance and help with some things we wanted to fix and maybe change in our team selection.

“But unfortunately they said it was the same in the Six Nations – which we wouldn’t know because we don’t play there – but they said they normally only give feedback on a Tuesday.”

The criticism and brickbats that have come the way of Erasmus are clearly water off a duck’s back. This was all the more so when a journalist, imploring him not to shoot the messenger, brought up a column by the former Lions head coach Sir Clive Woodward which highlighted Erasmus’s role as a water boy and that the lack of demarcation lines between him and Nienaber was “killing the Springboks”.

“I don’t know if his ‘Sir’ is so important in South Africa, but in England, I’m not sure,” responded Erasmus tartly. “But that’s his opinion. Myself and Jacques are great mates. I am the water carrier at this stage, so I think he is higher than me in rank.

“We have always worked together since the military in 1990. The way we work together, if you look at that match on Saturday, when it was 71 [minutes] we almost scored a try, it was called back. Then our working relationship might have been perfect. Then people say it’s working really well.

“So, I wouldn’t listen to too much of Clive Woodward. He doesn’t really matter to me.”

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