Even in the intensity of a Lions tour to South Africa, mind games have no effect on match officials

Warren Gatland and Rassie Erasmus kicking off the mind games is no surprise! But even in the intensity of a Lions tour to South Africa, it will have absolutely no effect on the officials

  • Warren Gatland and Rassie Erasmus have started the mind games of this Lions tour
  • It was really only a matter of time in the intensity of a Lions tour to South Africa
  • But the match officials won’t pay attention, they’ll be focused on the job

It was only a matter of time before the mind games started! This sort of thing happens for every test; coaches who want to exert extra pressure in the run-up to the competition management.

And nothing beats the intensity of a Lions series. So it was no surprise to see Warren Gatland and Rassie Erasmus go together. It’s all part of it. It depends on the character of the coaches. Some like it, others don’t care.

When it comes to Erasmus by running like the ‘water boy’, it’s not up to the referee to decide. That is up to the race commissioner. The protocol is clear and it says head coaches are not allowed in the technical zone. He’ll argue that he’s not the head coach, but let’s face it, that’s going a bit too far. He is the director of rugby. He’s the boss.

Erasmus (pictured) responded to Gatland's foul play claims by pointing out his own issues with Lions players

Warren Gatland (left) and Rassie Erasmus (right) playing mind games is no surprise at all

Even in the intensity of a Lions tour to South Africa, mind games don't affect match officials

Even in the intensity of a Lions tour to South Africa, mind games don’t affect match officials

The thinking games have no effect on the referees. They won’t pay attention to it. Their job is very clear: be as precise as possible and make sure you make the big decisions correctly. They will make mistakes. We all make mistakes. You just don’t want your mistakes to prove the difference over who wins.

The three Test umpires all come from different backgrounds. It’s only been a few years since Nic Berry hung up his shoes after his career at Wasps, so he has tremendous empathy with the players and understands what they are trying to do. He lets the game flow.

Mathieu Raynal used to be a teacher and is the most experienced referee of the three. He does most of his arbitration in the Top 14, where the focus is heavily on gameplay. In scrums, nothing gets past him.

Referee Nic Berry (right) at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. He will try to pass the Lions Test

Referee Nic Berry (right) at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. He will try to pass the Lions Test

Ben O’Keeffe is a doctor, so he is very methodical. He is an excellent communicator, very calm, very clear and rarely disturbed – just like a surgeon.

They will stay in the same hotel for the next few weeks, eating together and ‘bubbling’ for the next few weeks. Hours will be spent on their preparations, although they face a challenge as there is very little recent footage of the Springboks.

They all learned to referee in different parts of the world where the game is played differently. In the southern hemisphere, they play at a million miles per hour with lots of offloads and countless phases. The ball is reused so much that the breakdown is not so much a competition area. In the north, every bad luck is fought over and the scrum is seen as an opportunity to win a penalty rather than a restart.

But these guys are three of the best out there.

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