Rugby-Erasmus airs grievances over Lions tour refereeing in hour-long video

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup - Final - England v South Africa - International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama, Japan - November 2, 2019 South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus and South Africa's RG Snyman pose with the Webb Ellis Cup they celebrate winning the world cup final. REUTERS/Matthew Childs/File Photo

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) -South Africa's director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, posted an hour-long video on Twitter on Thursday airing numerous grievances over the refereeing in the first test of the British & Irish Lions tour, before saying he would "step away" for the last two tests.

The Boks and Lions have each repeatedly voiced their displeasure at the officiating for the three-test tour, starting before the series began and leading to growing tensions between the two camps' officials.

Erasmus stopped short of accusing the match officials of cheating in the video posted on Twitter, but he used 26 video clips to explain his unhappiness with their work in Saturday’s 22-17 first test loss in Cape Town.

He said he would take full responsibility for any fallout the video might have - although it remained unclear what exactly he meant about stepping away for the upcoming tests.

It was also unclear who exactly the video was intended for, although it may be World Rugby.

"I’ll step away from the last two Test matches, but let the Springboks and the Lions have an equal chance on the field when it comes to laws, respect, the way players get treated, what is said in a pre-match coaches meeting with the referees, how they give feedback post that, and how things get said in the media," Erasmus said.

Erasmus expressed frustration at what he suggested was uneven refereeing at the weekend.

"I'm not saying the referee was a cheat at all, I'm saying we just wanted clarity on a Sunday night and didn't get (it) until a Tuesday and, to be honest, I am not very convinced with the clarity we got from (Australian referee) Nic Berry," Erasmus said.

"I've had previous encounters where I made mistakes, saying things in public about referees, and normally it comes back to bite you, but in this instance the Lions only comes around every 12 years."

Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones told reporters on Thursday he had not seen the video, and was thinking only about Saturday's second test.

"I have a bit more to focus on between the white lines," Jones said. "But it highlights the passion and the commitment people have for the sport. The method (of releasing a video) is not for me to comment on."

Erasmus added that he was willing to give up his controversial but legal role as water carrier that has seen him offer on-field advice to players.

"As director of rugby, if this (video) causes that I’m not allowed to be a water carrier, I’ll step away," Erasmus said.

"If this means we’re going to get a fine, I’ll step away from the team management. If this means that the Springboks will be in trouble, I’ll say I did this in isolation, it’s me personally that did this and not SA Rugby and not the Springboks."

The second test in the three-game series will be played at the same venue on Saturday.

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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