Boks are taking things too far with 'Farrell tackle'

2018-11-07 09:12
Rassie Erasmus (Getty)
Rassie Erasmus (Getty)

Cape Town - How do you know if the Springboks have been on the receiving end of a bad call? They'll tell you. Over and over and over again. 

READ: Calls for World Rugby to issue statement on Owen Farrell 'tackle'

The Boks were robbed blind on Saturday. 

The decision from Australian referee Angus Gardner not to award a penalty after Owen Farrell's armless hit on Andre Esterhuizen was one of the more puzzling you could hope to see on a rugby field. 

It was a shocker, and the penalty almost certainly would have been given had the incident happened at any other point in the contest. But in front of 80 000 vocal English supporters and with the hooter having sounded, Gardner dished up a choke that left the rugby world shaking its collective heads in bemusement. 

The call was that bad, and the aftermath was understandable. 

World Rugby immediately came into the spotlight with this the latest example of inconsistency in officiating at the highest level, especially given the emphasis on player safety in recent years. 

It couldn't have been more clear-cut, and Bok coach Rassie Erasmus had every right to be seething at his post-match press conference. 

Instead, the former loose forward opted for passive aggressive sarcasm, insisting that he was not upset at all and that the Boks would try and implement the technique used by Farrell moving forward. 

It was an answer one would have expected from Eddie Jones. Erasmus, it seemed, was at least approaching it all with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour. 

That much was confirmed on Tuesday morning when video footage emerged (from where, we still don't know) of Erasmus and defence coach Jacques Nienaber showing Esterhuizen how to execute an armless, high tackle. 

It was a clear stab at Gardner's decision and at World Rugby, but the smile on Esterhuizen's face at the end of the clip again suggested that it was done in jest. 

The reaction to the video on social media was almost entirely positive, with most applauding Erasmus and the Boks for taking it all so well. 

Then, on Tuesday, both assistant coach Mzwandile Stick and centre Damian de Allende insisted that the Boks were serious about using the Farrell tackle technique against France in Paris on Saturday. 

That, surely, is a step too far. 

World Rugby have distanced themselves from the incident, but their silence does not mean that they have endorsed the decision or the tackle. A post-match citing would only have been possible if the citing commissioner had seen a possible red card offence. The consensus was that Farrell deserved yellow at worst. 

What the Boks have effectively done is state publicly that they are going into a Test match deliberately looking to tackle with no arms. 

That is not okay. 

They simply must be better in accepting that they were on the wrong end of an atrocious decision, and then they must move on. It is not the first time we have seen a poor call in rugby and it certainly won't be the last. 

Gardner, for whatever reason, made the wrong call. Everybody involved knows that. 

Against France, though, Nigel Owens will not be as incompetent and if the Boks come flying in the way Farrell did on Saturday, they will almost certainly be penalised. 

This approach is not helping the Bok cause at all and, frankly, it is all becoming a little immature. 

There were plenty of other areas throughout the 80 minutes that warrant more attention. Lineouts, handling, finishing, discipline ... these are the areas the Boks should be focusing on. 

When pressed on the Farrell tackle this week, the Boks should no longer be biting. It is over and there are three opponents lying ahead that couldn't give two hoots about any injustices the Boks have faced. 

There is so much to positive about in South African rugby currently, but they have lacked an element of class over the last couple of days. 

Erasmus' answer at the press conference was amusing and the video was witty, but having members of the squad effectively saying that they are out to push the boundaries in terms of what is safe and what is not, is questionable. 

For some reason, Erasmus is being praised for his pettiness. 

As a colleague of mine Tweeted after the video broke: "Hell hath no passive fury like a Bok coach scorned ..."

Follow @LloydBurnard on Twitter ... 

Read more on:    springboks  |  rassie erasmus  |  owen farrell  |  rugby


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