Eddie Jones insists rugby union must look after referees as South Africa boss Rassie Erasmus is forced to miss another clash with England at Twickenham for disciplinary reasons.
For the second year in a row, Erasmus has been banned from entering the stadium after being handed a two-game matchday ban for posting a series of sarcastic tweets criticizing officials during the Autumn Nations Series.
Wayne Barnes, who oversaw South Africa’s defeat by France on November 12, was slammed on social media in the wake of Erasmus’s comments.
Springboks rugby director Erasmus had just served a year’s ban for posting a video criticizing Australian referee Nic Berry during last year’s Lions tour.
While Jones does not condemn Erasmus’ behavior, he does note that officials must be treated with respect.
“I’m not perfect. I said things that probably weren’t right, but the more I train, the more I accept that we have to take care of the referees,” said the Australian.
“I remember being fined $10,000 in 2007 for criticizing a referee. That’s a lot of money in Queensland and I had to pay it myself because the union didn’t pay it for me.
“I’ve since accepted the fact that we shouldn’t be talking about referees, so I have a blanket rule that I don’t talk about referees – I don’t try – and I don’t talk about coaches talking about referees.
“It’s easy for me. There’s the game, play the game, the referee is in charge, if he makes mistakes, let’s accept it, because that’s our game.
“If we want to have a competitive game, referees will make mistakes. When we don’t want competition, we play basketball. Let’s not have a competition and call it basketball. Or we play Aussie Rules or football.”
Jones asks if Erasmus’ repeated criticism of referees aims to create a siege mentality as South Africa moves closer to defending the World Cup they won by toppling England in 2019.
“Whenever you’ve won something, you have to find the motivation to do it again, and maybe that’s a smart way to find motivation,” Jones said.
Jones revised his starting XV for the fall’s final task, making four changes, including two in the front row, where Mako Vunipola and Jamie George start in place of Ellis Genge and Luke Cowan-Dickie.
Sam Simmonds is demoted to the bench to make way for Alex Coles at the blindside flanker, with Jones deeming three line-out jumpers essential against South Africa, who will target England with a high-volume kicking game.
Rounding out the adjustment is Tommy Freeman, at the expense of Jack Nowell, winning his third cap on the right wing in what will be his first appearance since impressing on the July tour to Australia.
“It’s a completely different game. South Africa keeps coming through here (claps hands) while they come here with New Zealand and go wide fast,” Jones said.
“We have to face the challenge of them coming through the front door. It’s a different game and we chose a different side to neutralize their strengths and play to our strengths.
“Our faith in the way we want to play will be tested again because these guys are going to be coming off the blocks and through the front door.
“We have to fight and fight and fight and if we have a chance to break it, we have to try.”