The British and Irish Lions have reacted indignantly to the latest use of social media by Rassie Erasmus in highlighting foul play by the tourists amid suspicions that South Africa’s director of rugby is using a so-called burner Twitter account to influence match officials in the build-up to Saturday’s second Test in Cape Town.
Erasmus used Twitter to post a video of an incident in last Saturday's first Test and claimed that that the Boks winger Cheslin Kolbe had been illegally "played in the air" by Ali Price and accused the latter's team-mate Mako Vunipola of acting in a "reckless" and "dangerous" manner for lifting the prone Kolbe off the ground by the front of his jersey.
Vunipola was identified by a yellow-coloured oval outline, identical to those used in another video which Erasmus responded to from an account that is under the name Jaco Johan, with the handle @thenosyone987, and the profile “I am Rassie’s voice when he is to nervous to say something himself! Watch the space some good stuff on its way ! # burner account.”
Cheslin is obviously played in the air and clearly not direct into touch!!More importantly for youngsters watching this clip!!!! Please never move or touch an injured player on the ground, its reckless and dangerous! Leave this to the @WorldRugby @Springboks @lionsofficial pic.twitter.com/lEcp5L4PBf— Rassie Erasmus (@RassieRugby) July 26, 2021
After Erasmus had tweeted to congratulate the Lions on their 22-17 victory in the first Test, the account named “Jaco Johan” replied, “Respect your attitude in defeat, but there were some questionable calls. I’ll highlight a few.”
Accompanying this tweet was a video highlighting Tom Curry’s late charge on Faf de Klerk and Hamish Watson’s tip-tackle on Willie le Roux – both of which led to Springboks penalties.
Erasmus responded to that message from his official account by writing: “Thanks. This is rugby – sometimes calls go for you and other times they don’t.”
The "Jaco Johan" account was set up in April 2016, when Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber, the Springboks head coach, were appointed as director of rugby and defence coach at Munster. Erasmus's first name is Johan.
The account liked a tweet from Munster in November of that year before last week posting a tweet to highlight alleged high hits by Owen Farrell in the South Africa A v Lions game last Wednesday week. Erasmus then also retweeted it from his official account.
Put up in front of the media today, Vunipola was asked about the Erasmus tweet that he acted recklessly and dangerously with Kolbe.
“He seemed to be all right, he played on in the game, so it wasn’t that reckless, was it?
“I guess if he was really hurt then it was a bit reckless, but I just felt like the collision wasn’t that bad. I saw that people were putting it up [on social media] and mentioning it. We were behind at the time and wanted to get some tempo in the game so I wanted to get the ball off him.
“If I did hurt him then I do apologise but as I mentioned, in the heat of the moment, you just react as you would naturally.”
Steve Tandy, the Lions' defence coach, diplomatically said that if coaches have issues with incidents in games they should go through "the appropriate channels".
“It is hard for the officials, there is so much going on. People are saying Rassie is coming out and saying bits and pieces around the performances at the weekend but every team has got those moments.
“Every team can go through micro details and analyse it. We do it ourselves but it is then going through the appropriate channels, raising the ones that are relevant and not making it about every small detail, just making sure every one of the major ones is correct.”