Gatland hits out at Faf tackle, chirps Rassie’s “water boy” role

British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has reaffirmed his stance that Faf de Klerk should have been red-carded in Wednesday’s SA A match, while also having a jab at Rassie Erasmus’ “water boy” role.

Springbok scrumhalf De Klerk, who started for South Africa A at Cape Town stadium, was involved in a collision with the Lions forwards as they attempted a pick-and-go at the tryline towards the end of the first half of the match.

After a TMO review, referee Jaco Peyper decided to yellow card De Klerk with the reason that while his tackle was without arms, he did not make contact with the head of the opposition player.

Following the game, which SA A won 17-13, Gatland said he felt that De Klerk was fortunate to escape a red card. The Lions coach stuck with his view on Thursday after naming his team to take on the Stormers this weekend.

“I can’t understand when the comments were that there was no contact to the head,” Gatland explained. “Someone was watching a different picture to me. It looked reckless to me, no arms and he’s hit the arm first and then the shoulder, but then there’s definitely head contact.

“We’ve got a meeting with the referees tomorrow just to get a little bit more clarity on that. What we want is some clarity so we can get complete consistency.

“There is a citing commissioner who looks at those things. It will be interesting to see what the referees come back with and what other people who have had a look at it come back with.”

Gatland was also asked about SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus’ insinuation that the Lions did not want a re-match with SA A because they may have been scared after their physical contest on Wednesday.

He responded by taking a jab at Erasmus’ “new role” as a water boy, which has allowed him to easily pass on messages from the coaching staff to the rest of the team.

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“I think he was just trying to wind us up by saying we were scared, which he is sometimes capable of doing,” Gatland said.

“Last night, he’s a water boy and running onto the pitch, but the thing is if you’re the water boy running onto the pitch, you gotta make sure that you are carrying the water. So I didn’t quite understand what his role was. You don’t run onto the pitch, carrying messages without the water. My advice is next time, he must make sure he is carrying water when he does that.”

Gatland added that the Lions are looking forward to their final week of preparation for next weekend’s first Test against the Springboks in Cape Town.

“We are pretty excited about that. It was a physical game. It’s going to be a physical week. We will be pretty pumped for next week. We know what’s coming. They will have some sore bodies today.

“We went in there, working on some things, our maul defence, we scrummed exceptionally well, some of the pick-and-go stuff, they probably weren’t expecting that. It was an opportunity to work on those sorts of things.

“From an attacking perspective, we probably weren’t as clinical as we would be, but we think there were opportunities out there that we probably left behind. That will give us some things to work on for this weekend and for next week. I thought we looked really strong in that second half, so that’s a real positive for us.

“The guys were pretty bullish in the changeroom afterwards thinking we can win this series.”

Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Image

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Dylan Jack