Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has called on World Rugby to tighten up rules on coach behaviour, warning rugby is at a crossroads in the wake of the Rassie Erasmus ban.
South Africa director of rugby Erasmus has been banned from any rugby activity for two months and must serve a match-day ban until the end of September 2022 after being found guilty of threatening, abusing and insulting a match official.
A video of Erasmus criticising referee Nic Berry’s performance in the opening test of the British and Irish Lions series against South Africa was published on Twitter days after the game in July, which the Lions won 22-17.
The hour-long video sparked a lengthy investigation by World Rugby, which published its findings on Wednesday. Erasmus and South Africa Rugby Union intend to the appeal the World Rugby decision.
Townsend, who was a coach in the Lions camp when the incident occurred, said he agreed with the punishment and hopes it will deter similar behaviour in the future.
He said: “I think that was a real bad episode for our game.
“I was there at the time so obviously I experienced what was going on.
“Latterly I have spoken to Nic Berry about it and he went through a real tough time, as did his family, so that was a real shame that these things can happen in our sport.
“I don’t think it could have been allowed to continue, those antics, and we can’t be allowed to fall into the trap of winning at all costs and putting pressure on individuals.
“It has been a while for that decision to come and would be my only frustration, that it has taken this long.
“I feel that whatever happens around a game – whether it is a player, a coach or something related to the game – decisions have to be made quicker.”
Townsend also voiced his frustrations that Erasmus has been allowed to act as a matchday ‘water carrier’, taking drinks to the players during stoppages in games.
The Scotland head coach alleged that Erasmus aimed remarks at his players during last week’s 30-15 victory for the Springboks.
Townsend said: “This is a bit of the tip of iceberg for me.
“We have seen a lot of incidents where people on the sidelines are trying to intimidate players, trying to intimidate officials.
“Coming on to the field as well, to either try and coach their team or intimidate officials.
“So it has got to stop and I would urge World Rugby to make further changes. Why do we need coaches on the sideline?
“And if they are on the sideline we have to live up to certain behaviours and values that we pride in our game which, sadly I think, over the summer and since then have been lost.
“I wasn’t really aware of it at the time but somebody showed me a video of him making comments about one of our players [during last week’s test match].
“Whether you call in character assassination or sledging or whatever, that is not the role of coaches or anyone on the sidelines to be doing that.
“That was really disappointing to see and I know it wasn’t the only incident over that game.
“If we want our sport to go down a different route then we allow these things to happen.”
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