Rassie Erasmus' reputation has taken quite a battering over the last couple of years. While there is no doubting his ability to get the most out of his teams on the pitch, the way he has conducted himself off of it has rubbed quite a few people up the wrong way.
His infamous hour long leaked rant at World Rugby during the 2021 Lions tour is the best example, resulting in 12-month ban from the authorities. Another twitter rant would then land him a further two match ban, which he served during the autumn series in 2022.
In fairness, that abrasive attitude suits this South African side. They often play on the edge of the rules and have no issue making their case when decisions go against them. As a result, it's not surprising that their relationships with match officials have deteriorated in some cases.
They are now taking steps to address that issue.
Rassie Erasmus explains thinking behind Nigel Owens appointment
Rassie Erasmus has earmarked an interesting backroom appointment in order to remedy this problem, asking Nigel Owens to join his staff ahead of the World Cup later this year, with a deal close to being agreed.
In an intriguing interview with The Times, the South African explained what he expected to gain from having the former referee to call upon.
We have to repair this because obviously there’s not a great relationship.
When you’re South African, you see how South Africans see. Even the way I talk, sometimes people think it’s aggressive. When you’ve known me a while you know it’s not aggressive.
It is having another voice trying to get us not sound attacking or arrogant. We definitely want to change that view. If we get our way, we will have him as soon as possible. I actually just emailed him. He said it’s a goer.
We are very aligned with the way World Rugby’s going with safety, tackling, head contact, but it’s the perception of whether or not something’s OK when we send it to World Rugby. Maybe Nigel could talk to them for us.
There’s his knowledge in reviews, previews, videos. It would be great. It’s the way he communicates. It’s how people see us from the outside.
Someone like Nigel might come in and say, ‘These guys are doing it right,’ or he might say, ‘Hey guys, you have to change a few things here.’
If anybody thinks it’s a smokescreen then we’re going to stop it immediately. It’s a genuine need for us to change.
You can read the full interview here.
Owens would certainly add a different perspective to the South African coaching staff. They are not the only team to go down this route in recent times, with France having called upon Jerome Garces in similar fashion over the last couple of seasons.
It will be interesting to see how this move affects their relationship with officials over the coming months.