There are so many questions for South Africa to answer on Monday after their first Test defeat by the Lions – hardly about the rugby – as Rassie Erasmus treads the fine line of duty.
To start with, who the hell is Jaco Johan, the anonymous twitterer who is curious and perfectly preoccupied with Springboks director of rugby Erasmus’ and his conspiracy theories?
Sportsmails first forensic examination of the gray bot who joined Twitter in April 2016 – when Erasmus coached Munster – but has only now started tweeting, twice, a very detailed analysis of key moments going against South Africa shows that he has a of only three accounts followed by the Bok boss.
The amusing claim that South African coach Rassie Erasmus is behind an anonymous Twitter account post about the Lions is worth investigating
Ersamus responded to an anonymous account that outlined ‘dubious appeals’ in South Africa’s 22-17 loss to the Lions in the first Test
The others? Experts of South Africa’s downfall in the first Cape Town Test, Lions Maro Itoje and Alun Wyn Jones.
Whether it’s direct trolling from those now perusing every aspect of Johan and Erasmus’ accounts, or a vain mistake, it’s mildly amusing – and worth investigating fully. Operation Boxing War opens.
Erasmus has some serious comments.
While Warren Gatland uses the traditional way of using Her Majesty’s Fourth Estate to convey his criticisms or grievances – such as his insecurities about the appointment of South African Marius Jonker as the official of the television contest – Erasmus opts for a ’21st-century ‘ approach.
The 48-year-old has criticized the Lions and has a 21st-century approach to them
For the sake of the tape, the World Cup-winning Boxing coach, now a step above his successor Jacques Nienaber, took to Twitter after the South African ‘A’ match to respond to an article in which Gatland had said the Lions’ “clarity and wanted clarity’. consistency’ of umpires.
Gatland was annoyed that Faf de Klerk had not been sent off for hitting Josh Navidi in the head in a tackle. Erasmus then tweeted his own analysis – a couple of misdirected clips citing Owen Farrell’s tackle technique.
The first the English captain wrestle with de Klerk. ‘When there’s time,’ Erasmus tweeted sarcastically, ‘perhaps absolute clarity and alignment on this too, I know the way after the whistle, but let’s just tune in and get clarity to be sure.’
Then he went back inside, fidgeting with the volume knob on his iPad and showing another Farrell tackle he liked high at No. 8 Jasper Wiese.
‘While you’re at it, get clarity about this too!!’ he cried. ‘Red, yellow penalty or play on? We need to be 100% sure and aligned! I don’t agree anymore.’
He retweeted a video uploaded by the user highlighting incidents that fell through after the Lions defeated South Africa ‘A’.
Then, like mastermind ‘H’ pulling the strings behind his laptop, Rassie’s buddy (alter ego!?) Jaco Johan got the clips oriented and folded in half, zooming in on Farrell’s shoulder.
Erasmus retweeted merrily – he wasn’t floating in a bubble on the Lagan, boy.
We thought this would be the end of the Johan, the fourth man, but then South Africa lost the first Test.
Erasmus, all humble and magnanimous, replied to the Lions’ account to celebrate their victory with: ‘No apologies on this side!! You are far from home, families and going through the same heavy covid protocols as we are!! Congratulations and well deserved!!!’
However, old bot Johan was less public, it helps if you don’t have a face.
Johan was back with more criticism of the Lions after beating the Springboks on Saturday
@thenosyone987 couldn’t resist pushing his beak in and replying to the big boss: ‘Respect your attitude in defeat but there were some questionable phone calls. I’ll highlight a few” before tagging the official accounts of both South Africa and the Lions.
The attached one-minute, twenty-one-second video showed Tom Curry hitting De Klerk late (which was penalized at the time), Hamish Watson tipping Willie le Roux, Duhan van der Merwe cleaning up a ruck perhaps a little too enthusiastically, the inequality of benefits played by umpire Nic Berry, a no-knee of Courtney Lawes, and Farrell held in a ruck.
Rassie – humble – quoted-tweeted and said ‘Thank you. This is rugby – sometimes conversations go for you and sometimes they don’t.’
But by Monday morning, he threw away the sickly sweet and immediately turned bitter.
This time he had the video right side up, and found another complaint: Cheslin Kolbe was bundled up in contact and then quickly picked up by Mako Vunipola. Was it to the letter of the law?
Erasmus went from sickly sweet to bitter on Monday when he came across Mako Vunipola
‘Cheslin is clearly played in the air and clearly not in direct contact!! More important for young people watching this clip!!!! Never move or touch an injured player on the ground, it is reckless and dangerous! Leave this to the (hospital emoji, aka medics) @WorldRugby @Springboks @lionsofficial.’
Mother of God!
Mr. Vunipola, you are accused of being ‘reckless’ and ‘dangerous’ – what have you got to say, fellow?
“Remember when I tried to get the ball in, but I saw that it had fallen,” was his reply.
“I think it’s one of those things that you react in the heat of battle like you normally would. He seemed to be fine, he continued to play in the game, so it wasn’t that reckless, was it?
“I think if he was really injured it was a bit reckless, but I just felt like the collision wasn’t that bad. I saw people posting it (on social media) and mentioning it.
“We were behind at the time and wanted to get some pace in the game, so I wanted to get the ball off him.
“If I’ve hurt him, I apologize, but like I said, in the heat of the moment, just react as you would. It’s the first time a coach says something like that.’
What do you think of this curved tweeter, Steve Tandy?
“It’s a tough job and I know everyone complains about certain decisions,” he said.
‘Frustration is always there, and we understand that as coaches. But if you can keep that, because it’s a tough job for the officials. If we can stick to the right channels, I think that’s probably the best way to get around that, because it’s a tough job for the players, the coaches, and it’s definitely hard for the umpires too.
“People say Rassie comes out and says things about the weekend performances, but every team has those moments. Any team can go through and analyze micro details.
“We’re doing it ourselves, but it’s going through the right channels, bringing out the relevant channels and not about every little detail, but making sure each of the main ones is correct.”
The Lions have not been phased by Erasmus’ comments and feel that the coach is just frustrated
The Springbok don’t seem to be bothered by it either and can handle Erasmus’ wandering fingers just fine
In all this, the South African Rugby Union is not very concerned. Is what Erasmus does different from questioning a referee during a press conference after the game, are they musing privately?
While they publicly deny all knowledge — “I’m completely ignorant of comments on social media,” assistant Deon Davids said — away from the cameras, they’re fine with Erasmus’ errant fingers, even if their acclaimed coach is the is chopping mountains of respect he built at the World Cup, as the smiling hit man who united a nation, a country and built an incredible team with humility at heart.
But like Jekyll and Hyde, every Rassie Erasmus has their Jaco Johan – a random name generated Afrikaner to do his dirt on social media.
But what happens when Dr Jekyll becomes Mr Hyde and those yellow circles to mark misbehavior on video are repeated in both accounts?
This is definitely, sorry absolutely, one for Chief Inspector Hastings, DI Fleming and DS Arnott at AC-12.