Cape Town - When will World Rugby’s feud with Rassie Erasmus end? Following this week’s announcement of new trials relating to water carriers, probably not anytime soon…
I mean, to implement a whole global trial to manage water carriers is a bit much when it is clearly just to try and restrict Erasmus’ influence on the Springbok team.
Yes, World Rugby’s Mark Harrington – the chief player welfare and rugby services officer – said “water carriers were getting out of hand” on the pitch.
“We’re taking concrete action to improve the flow of rugby matches, this will be the first time teams on the field of play could be sanctioned by the actions of those not directly involved in the contest,” Harrington said.
“We’ve received feedback from across the game that the number of people who aren’t players, interrupting the flow of the game was getting out of hand. But we needed to tackle the issue without impacting on the welfare of players and providing them with everything needed to perform at the highest level.”
But if it was just about the flow of a match and not impacting on the welfare and hydration needs, then it would have been all well and fine.
The governing body, though, gave their own game away (excuse the pun) by stating that the two water carriers allowed on the sidelines “cannot be a director of rugby or head coach”.
Why can’t it be either of those two people? How does that affect the flow of the game or welfare needs? World Rugby made it clear that the leeway for the water carriers will be closely policed.
“In elite-level rugby, water carriers will only be able to enter the field of play twice per half at points agreed with the match officials – this can only be during a stoppage in play or after a try has been scored,” World Rugby said about the additional personnel. outside of the medics.
“A person bringing on a kicking tee may carry one bottle for the kicker’s use only. These water/tee carriers must remain in the technical zone at all times before entering the field of play as permitted.
“Any attempt to field or touch the ball while it is live in play, including the technical zone, will be sanctioned with a penalty kick.
“No-one should approach, address or aim comments at the match officials, save for medics in respect of treatment of a player. Should this happen, the sanction will be a penalty kick.”
Just look at that last point – Nienaber wouldn’t have had a match-day role at the Stormers and Springboks in the past if he wasn’t allowed to “have a word” with the referee or touch judges!
But in all seriousness, this whole ‘waterboy’ situation is “getting out of hand”, to paraphrase Harrington, and that is why Erasmus’ flippant response on Twitter – about changing his title to director of coaching – was necessary.
It appears to be a thinly veiled attempt to reduce the former loose forward’s influence on the Bok team – perhaps due to his famous Nic Berry video during last year’s British and Irish Lions series, for which he is still banned until October from being involved in match-day activities.
Why? What is so scary about Erasmus helping the team on the side of the field?
World Rugby took a big stride forward in trying to grow the game by choosing the United States as hosts of the 2031 and 2033 men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup last week.
But they took several steps backward with this trial on water carriers, which will start on July 1 and continue through to the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
In the spirit of innovation, the powers-that-be in Dublin should actually follow soccer’s example and allow the coach (or director of rugby) to bark out instructions and advice from the technical zone pitch-side – if he or she so wishes.
This ongoing Erasmus impasse is just becoming petty now…