South Africa’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus has cranked up the tension with the touring British & Irish Lions by going onto social media to question the tackling technique of Owen Farrell.
Erasmus posted video clips of two tackles Farrell made in the Lions’ tour match on Wednesday, when they lost to South Africa A in Cape Town, days after Lions coach Warren Gatland questioned why home scrumhalf Faf de Klerk had not been sent off for a reckless head challenge.
Animosity between the coaches has risen after Erasmus failed to persuade the Lions to drop their tour game on Saturday against the provincial franchise Stormers for a repeat clash with the shadow Springbok side to give South Africa better opportunities to prepare for the three-test series that starts next week.
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Erasmus, the de-facto coach of the world champion Springboks, had initially suggested the Lions were running scared but then backed off those comments, while Gatland rejected another match against South Africa A saying it was not his team’s role to prepare the hosts for the tests.
South Africa’s preparations were disrupted by an outbreak of COVID-19 infections, causing the cancellation of a warm-up test against Georgia and five days of isolation for their 45-man squad in their hotel rooms last week.
On Wednesday, De Klerk was fortunate not to be red-carded – and potentially banned from the tests – for a running tackle, leading with his head and without using his arms, on Lions loose forward Josh Navidi. De Klerk looked to almost knock himself out with the force of the clash.
“It looked reckless to me. No arms, and he’s hit the arm first and then shoulder but there’s definitely head-on-head contact,” said Gatland, who added that he would seek further clarification from the referees.
In response, Erasmus has posted video clips highlighting two Farrell tackles: one leading with his shoulder on back-row forward Jasper Wiese, and the other grabbing De Klerk high and spinning his opponent around.
“If there is time maybe also get absolute clarity and alignment on this one please, I know it’s way after the whistle, but let’s just align and get clarity to be sure,” he wrote in the post.
Erasmus had earlier this week spilt news that Lions forward Alun Wyn Jones was to rejoin the squad, catching Gatland off guard when he was asked about it by reporters. The Lions coach looked irritated by the revelation.
Gatland also mocked Erasmus’ water boy act at Cape Town Stadium on Wednesday night.
Erasmus was frequently on the pitch during stoppages in play, instructing his charges while wearing a bib reserved for those who carry sustenance onto the field for the players.
“I think if you are the water boy carrier running onto the pitch you have got to make sure you are carrying water,” Gatland jibed.