Boks are on their Owens: Rassie confirms ref gurus not needed as World Rugby relations thaw

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Nigel Owens. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Nigel Owens. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
  • SA Rugby director Rassie Erasmus has made peace with the fact that Welsh referee Nigel Owens will not be on board for the Springboks' World Cup campaign.
  • Erasmus stressed that the Springbok management had learnt valuable information during sessions with Owens.
  • The Springbok management will not be looking for a replacement candidate for the world-renowned referee.

Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby's director of rugby, said on Thursday that the Springboks would not be enlisting the services of a permanent referee coach for their World Cup campaign later this year.

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Erasmus was eager to bring renowned Welsh refereeing guru Nigel Owens on board for the showpiece event in France.

However, Owens, who is involved with the training of referees for World Rugby, turned down Erasmus’ offer to join the Boks as he could not commit to the role full-time.

While addressing reporters at SARU House in Plattekloof on Thursday, Erasmus admitted he was disappointed at not securing Owens for the role.

However, Erasmus stressed that Springbok management had learnt valuable information during sessions with Owens, adding that simply getting another referee guru on board would not suffice. Owens was their preferred choice.

"Nigel was the [perfect] fit and, unfortunately, he's not available. But in our engagement with Nigel there were a lot of discussions on what we need and how we need to change, how he can he help us, etc," Erasmus said.

Over the past few seasons, Erasmus has landed in hot water for his comments on refereeing, but the SA Rugby mentor believes they have since built bridges with World Rugby.

"Through that (engagements with Owens) I believe we have built a relationship with Word Rugby ... Felix (Jones, defence coach) is on working groups, Jacques (Nienaber, head coach) is on the high-performance committee.

"Yes, we haven't played recently, but we haven’t really been bumping heads (with World Rugby) the last couple of months."

Erasmus said they didn't want to get a referee coach just for the sake of it.

"We didn't feel it must be something that's like a smokescreen or something that we pretend to do ... because Nigel couldn't do it, we haven't found somebody that's really the fit what we want to get out of that.

"So, no, we're not going to replace him (Owens). In our backroom staff we still have a few things that we're sorting out until the World Cup to make sure 'this is exactly what we need'.

"But I think we've passed that thing with the info that we’ve traded forwards and backwards and we’ve eventually come to a conclusion that, internally, with the help from a lot of referees, Nigel's still available for us to bounce things off him ... so the long answer is we’re not going to replace him."

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