UK writer slams Rassie Erasmus, ‘sewer rat rugby followers’

A contentious British author has attacked Rassie Erasmus, the Springboks, and a certain group of “rugby followers” in South Africa.

After officiating the intense World Cup final, Wayne Barnes, the most seasoned referee in World Rugby, has announced his retirement.

Since then, it has come to light that he was allegedly the victim of death threats from enraged spectators at the tournament’s business end in Paris, which his wife has confirmed.

Polly Barnes, the Women’s Rugby Association co-founder, hit out at supporters who are said to have verbally abused her husband while attending the World Cup final at the Stade de France.

While the entire Barnes family was present for the Paris final, his wife claims the event was overshadowed by the hatred Wayne had to endure on Instagram and via an email account that was used for inquiries.

Polly later wrote on social media, stating: “What a disgusting atmosphere at the Stade de France.” It’s simply a game of heads. Later on, she added: “See you later, Rugby World Cup. I won’t miss the death threats or you.

In a piece published in the UK Sunday Times, Stephen Jones made it very clear that Barnes’ departure was sparked, at least partially, by the notion that “online sewer rats hurt rugby – and Rassie Erasmus isn’t helping.”

He wrote a column that made it apparent how much he detested the South African director of rugby, some South African “rugby followers,” and the Springboks in general. “Abuse piled on Wayne Barnes is now typical of rugby’s more polarised nature, and the appalling behaviour of the South Africa head coach is fuel on the flames,” he wrote.

Jones also asserted on social media that South African supporters and the Springboks are “disliked because of the arrogance and abuse of opponents and referees.”


Barnes faced a lot of criticism following the exciting 30-26 victory over the Springboks that France secured on the 2022 end-of-year tour. This was especially true after many contentious rulings against South Africa late in the game.

Replays revealed what looked to be a double movement in the lead-up late in the game, but Barnes’ decision to give the home team a key try overshadowed both the outcome and the spectacle of the Test.

In the last ten minutes, France won a number of additional judgments, including one in which a Willie le Roux pass was deemed to have progressed.

Shortly after the game, Rassie Erasmus posted an apparently sarcastic remark on Twitter (now known as X), part of which read, “We just need to fix these fundamental errors like simple passing and tackle technique.” Apologies!The post from Erasmus’ @Rassie Rugby social media account featured a footage of Cheslin Kolbe being struck in the face by a potentially deadly forearm early in the match.

Erasmus ended up getting suspended for the last two games of the year-end tour because he kept tweeting about this game, which was seen as unfair criticism of the umpires.

He and his family endured terrible harassment following the Springboks-France Test last year as a result of the online outcry.

Later, Barnes talked candidly about the suffering he had gone through, even admitting that once his kids started receiving abuse and threats, he had thought about giving up.

During an interview with The Good, The Bad & The Rugby podcast, Barnes talked about the horrifying abuse he received and the threats he received for his family.

Barnes stated, “Criticism on social media turns into abuse very quickly.” That’s the world in which we exist. We call that social media. Nonetheless, I choose to use social media and to serve as a referee. My wife Polly does not choose to serve as a referee.

“On the Saturday night, there started to be some direct abuse at Polly. Then, the following two or three days, there was direct abuse to Polly, threats of sexual violence, and threats against the kids.

“That takes it to a different level. When you’ve done 100 games, you think you can prepare for most things. You can’t prepare for that…

“I don’t mind if people make fun of me for my performance; they’re free to treat me badly in person. But it went beyond simply crossing a boundary. It had spread so far that the line was no longer even visible. It has an impact on both you and your family.

When questioned if Erasmus’s tweets may have increased the abuse, Barnes was unable to provide a clear response, but he did indicate that it may serve as motivation for others to attack authorities on social media.

“I’m not sure how to respond to it. My argument is that when individuals observe those in positions of authority who are supposed to preserve the integrity of our sport publicly criticizing referees, it gives others license to ask, “Why can’t people in positions of power also criticize?”

Barnes also acknowledged he even considered walking away from refereeing in the aftermath of the controversy.

“I sacrifice, but it’s a family sacrifice and you do think, ‘I’ve got this other decent job to go to. I’m a partner at a law firm and they’re keen for me to come back full-time’,” he told the podcast. “Of course you question it, and that’s a constant conversation you have with your family.”


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