Rassie Erasmus may appear to have the odds stacked against him after World Rugby summoned the South Africa director for a misconduct hearing, but it helps to have friends in high places.
That’s because Sharks owner Marco Masotti is ready to use his legal connections and “put World Rugby on trial” for daring to challenge the Springboks chief.
Rugby’s governing body published a statement on Tuesday confirming Erasmus would face an independent misconduct hearing following his criticism of officials in the first British and Irish Lions Test.
Several days after South Africa lost the series opener 22-17, Erasmus was the sole subject of an hour-long video critiquing referee Nic Berry, as well as television match official Marius Jonker.
Sharks owner Masotti has leapt to the defence of his compatriot, however, and replied to the news by saying he has lawyers on hand to help fight Erasmus’ case:
Masotti—a partner at the Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison law firm—tweeted: “I have a team of New York lawyers ready to take care of Rassie and SA Rugby. Let us put World Rugby on trial…”
It’s worth highlighting the Lions were also called up as part of the hearing, with World Rugby stating “individuals from both teams have commented on the selection and/or performance of match officials.”
Lions coach Warren Gatland had previously questioned the lack of contingency plans after the original TMO, New Zealand’s Brendon Pickerill, was replaced by South African Jonker at short notice.
Refereeing decisions have unfortunately taken a large portion of the spotlight across the first two Lions Tests, with the two teams level on one win apiece heading into Saturday’s Cape Town decider.
Masotti—who led the consortium that purchased a controlling stake in the Sharks this past January—clearly feels it would be an injustice if Erasmus were punished for his comments.
His portfolio includes representing funds and entities valued in the tens of billions, suggesting World Rugby may have a task on their hands if Erasmus’ case were taken to court.
The South Africa figurehead has already been scrutinised for his Twitter activity and for acting as a water boy for his side, but his video address was seemingly a step too far for World Rugby.
Any misconduct hearing isn’t expected to take place until after Saturday’s deciding Test, at which point the reigning world champions may have already clinched the series.
Erasmus suggested in his now-infamous 62-minute video that he would be prepared to “step away” from his management role if he was deemed to be in breach of rugby’s laws.
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