When rugby trans­forms into thugby

The Citizen (KZN) - - Sport - Ru­dolph Ja­cobs

Has South African rugby be­come an en­vied tar­get fol­low­ing the na­tion’s World Cup tri­umph last year?

Af­ter a bla­tant late tackle by Hur­ri­canes hooker Ricky Ricitelli on Spring­bok cap­tain Siya Kolisi, which put the Storm­ers skip­per out of the game for two months with a knee in­jury, it seems the storm hasn’t sub­sided yet.

Kiwi-based writer Mark Rea­son this week de­scribed the in­ci­dent as “cow­ardly thug­gery” and also sin­gled out in­ci­dents like fingers to the eyes of flank Pi­eter-Steph du Toit and a head-high tackle on loose for­ward Jaco Coet­zee as oth­ers which should have been dealt with more se­verely by ref­eree Jaco Peyper.

This week we also had to deal with other “fake news” re­ports like Bok di­rec­tor of rugby Rassie Eras­mus be­ing linked to the Eng­land coach­ing po­si­tion.

It was for­tu­nately quickly rub­bished by both Eras­mus, who quickly opened a Twit­ter ac­count dis­play­ing videos at last year’s World Cup (where the Boks beat Eng­land in the fi­nal) and com­mented “not hap­pen­ing”, while the English rugby fed­er­a­tion (RFU) de­nied hav­ing any talks with Eras­mus.

Saru Pres­i­dent Mark Alexan­der also quickly stepped in to say “hands off Rassie”, stat­ing that Eras­mus’ con­tract ran un­til 2024 and not 2021, as was in­cor­rectly re­ported.

The ru­mour prob­a­bly orig­i­nated from Eras­mus be­ing spot­ted in the crowd dur­ing the Eng­land-Scot­land Cal­cutta Cup clash, but Eras­mus was merely gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion be­cause the Boks are host­ing Scot­land in a twom­atch Test series in July.

Not to sug­gest a witch-hunt has started, but it does seem all of these events have hap­pened in quick suc­ces­sion, per­haps plant­ing an idea that forces are at work to cre­ate divi­sion within the SA Rugby ranks.

It has hap­pened in the past that the Boks have ex­pe­ri­enced a slump af­ter a World Cup win, and it’s one of Eras­mus’ main tasks (along with new Bok coach Jac­ques Nien­aber) to en­sure it doesn’t hap­pen again.

One just hopes that envy is not the rea­son be­hind the Canes’ un­sports­man­like con­duct against the Storm­ers, which could await the Sharks to­day.

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