Rassie: Boks eager to repair relationship with referees, World Rugby

Rassie: Boks eager to repair relationship with referees, World Rugby

Rassie Erasmus has confirmed he is looking into bringing Welsh referee Nigel Owens into the Springbok setup for the World Cup in September.

In an interview with the Daily Mail in England, Erasmus revealed that Owens is on the verge of joining the Boks.

"Everyone knows about Nigel. I actually just emailed him. From the outside, he said it's a goer. From the inside, we'll know next week," he said.

The Springboks' director of rugby explained the reasoning behind bringing Owens into his coaching team, acknowledging that the relationship between the Boks and World Rugby had been damaged in recent times as a result of his suspensions for publicly questioning refereeing decisions.

Erasmus hopes that Owens can provide some guidance and help them repair the relationship with the sport's central governing authority.

"The reason is straightforward," he said.

"We could take one of our local refs, but it would be another South African voice. People from the outside think the South African voice is attacking or arrogant. Even the way I talk, sometimes people think it's aggressive. When you've known me a while, you know it's not aggressive.

"We definitely want to change that view. Prior to those two incidents [Erasmus' bans], we never had stuff like that. It will take hard work to change. Someone like Nigel might come in and say, 'These guys are doing it right' or he might say, 'Hey guys, you have to change a few things here". It's the way he communicates. It's a real thing we're trying to fix, not a smokescreen."

Erasmus has found himself in hot water with World Rugby twice. The first incident in 2021 saw him suspended after a video leaked in which he questioned the decisions of referee Matt Berry in the first Test against the British & Irish Lions.

He then received a second suspension during last year's November internationals for commenting on refereeing on social media following the Boks' Test against France in Marseille.

Erasmus says that Owens coming in would also prevent him from talking himself 'into a hole again' as he looks to get on the right side of the officials and the governing body.

"I don't want to talk myself into a hole again here. We basically felt we have to repair this because, obviously there's not a great relationship. We want to reset that. It's a genuine need for us to change."

"If we get our way, we will have him as soon as possible. We are very aligned in terms of the way world rugby's going with safety, tackling, head contact. So it's the perception of whether or not something's OK when we send it to World Rugby.

"Maybe Nigel could talk to them for us. And then there's his knowledge in reviews, previews, videos. We want someone to be a full-on management member. It would be great," he added.

The Springboks kick off their 2023 season against the Wallabies on 8 July, their opening game of the Rugby Championship.

Erasmus was also asked how he views the Boks' chances of being able to defend their World Cup crown in France later this year, and admitted South Africa can't be viewed as favourites at this stage - though he assured Bok fans they would be going all out to claim back-to-back trophies.

"Would you not say we're going in as underdogs? With no emotions. would you not say that France, Ireland and New Zealand are currently the favourites?

"Realistically, yes, we see ourselves as going in to defend it, and we get a lot of confirmation out of that match against France and Ireland in November. Before that, and this is not an excuse, we went a little bit cold into that match. But Ireland and France are No 1.

"And we know New Zealand if they played them today it would definitely be one point this way or that way. We also believe if we play against those guys it'll be one point either way."