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Lions captain Jones was ‘on a date’ with referee, says former Bok skipper

John Smit during the British and Irish Lions Series Launch at FNB Stadium.

John Smit during the British and Irish Lions Series Launch at FNB Stadium.

(Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

Former Springboks captain John Smit says he understands the frustration that led Rassie Erasmus to post a controversial video following the first Test between South Africa and the British & Irish Lions last Saturday.

Speaking on SuperSport TV, Smit said he had experience of complaints about referees being met with “deaf ears” from rugby bosses and accused Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones of being “on a date” with Australian referee Nic Berry.

Erasmus, South Africa’s rugby director, pointed out in a 62-minute video what he claimed were numerous errors by Berry and the other match officials during a 22-17 win by the Lions.

The second of three Tests is scheduled for Cape Town Stadium on Saturday (18:00 kick-off).

Smit, who led South Africa to the 2007 Rugby World Cup title and a series win against the Lions two years later, agreed with Erasmus that key decisions went against the Springboks.

He also agreed that Berry had respected Lions’ skipper Alun Wyn Jones more than Springbok captain Siya Kolisi.

“You just have to look at his (Jones) influence over the referee,” said Smit. “He was hardly more than a metre and a half from the referee. He kept feeding the ref, manipulating, I suppose, highlighting things.

“He’s an old dog, he’s been captain for a long time. He knows how to push the buttons, ask subtle questions. Siya couldn’t get a chance.

“It was like Alun Wyn was on a date with Nic Berry.

“The more you talk to the ref, the more the other captain is thinking, ‘Why can’t I win here?’ It’s a mind game and Alun Wyn was an absolute genius.”

Smit said complaining about referees was frustrating.

“We all have those days where we think that we’ve taken a klap (beating) from the referees. We go through the right channels and we send the clips to the head of referees or whoever the case may be and nothing happens.”

Smit highlighted two decisions.

The first was when Springbok prop Ox Nche caused Tadhg Furlong to lose his bind in a scrum. Lions flank Tom Curry then made an illegal move, causing a neck injury which will keep Nche out of the rest of the series. Yet Berry penalised Nche.

“He (Ox) got penalised for being broken illegally and his trajectory as a Springbok might be affected by the fact that he can’t play again for the next couple of weeks.

“On the other hand, if (Lions lock) Maro Itoje had got a yellow card for stealing the ball as we were about to score a try, with his knees on the player, it might have been a different scenario for him and his trajectory as a player.”


South Africa

15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse

British & Irish Lions:

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