When rugby transforms into thugby
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.