There are so many questions for South Africa to answer on the Monday after their first Test defeat by the Lions – hardly any about the rugby – as Rassie Erasmus treads the fine line of duty.
To start, who on earth is Jaco Johan, the anonymous tweeter curiously and fulsomely engaged with Springboks director of rugby Erasmus’ and his conspiracy theories?
Sportsmail’s initial forensics on the greyed-out bot who joined Twitter in April 2016 – when Erasmus was coaching Munster – but has only now started tweeting, twice, high-specification analysis of key moments that are going against South Africa, show that he is one of just three accounts followed by the Bok boss.
The amusing claim that South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus is behind an anonymous Twitter account posting about the Lions is worth an investigation
Ersamus responded to an anonymous account who had outlined ‘questionable calls’ in South Africa’s 22-17 loss to the Lions in the first Test
The others? Experts of the South African demise in the first Cape Town Test, Lions Maro Itoje and Alun Wyn Jones.
Whether direct trolling of those now poring over every aspect of Johan and Erasmus’ accounts, or an idle mistake, it is mildly amusing – and worth full-blown investigation. Operation Bokskrieg open.
Erasmus has some serious points to make.
While Warren Gatland is using the traditional route of using Her Majesty’s Fourth Estate to convey his criticisms or gripes – like his uncertainties around South African Marius Jonker being appointed as television match official – Erasmus is taking a ’21st century’ approach.
The 48-year-old has been critical of the Lions and takes a 21st century approach to it
For the benefit of the tape, after the South Africa ‘A’ game the World Cup winning Boks coach, now one step above his successor Jacques Nienaber, took to Twitter to respond to an article in which Gatland had said the Lions wanted ‘clarity and consistency’ from referees.
Gatland was annoyed Faf de Klerk had not been sent off for whacking Josh Navidi in the head in a tackle. Erasmus then tweeted his own analysis – a couple of wrongly-oriented clips citing Owen Farrell’s tackle technique.
The first the England captain wrestling de Klerk. ‘If there is time,’ tweeted Erasmus sarcastically, ‘maybe also get absolute clarity and alignment on this one please, I know its way after the whistle, but let’s just align and get clarity to be sure.’
Then he went in again, showing while fiddling with the volume button on his iPad, showing another Farrell tackle he felt was high on No 8 Jasper Wiese.
‘While you at it please get clarity on this also!!’ he cried. ‘Red, Yellow penalty or play on? We have to 100% sure and aligned! Can’t agree more.’
He retweeted a video the user uploaded which highlighted incidents that didn’t go their way after the Lions beat South Africa ‘A’
After that, like mastermind ‘H’ pulling strings behind his laptop Rassie’s mate (alter ego!?) Jaco Johan got the clips up the right way round and doubled down, zooming in on Farrell’s shoulder.
Erasmus gleefully retweeted – he didn’t float up the Lagan in a bubble, lad.
We thought that might 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 celebrating their win with: ‘No excuses this side!! You are far away from home, families and going through same tough covid protocols like we do!! Congrats and well deserved!!!’
Old bot Johan was less public-facing though, it helps when you do not have a face.
Johan was back with more criticism of the Lions after they beat the Springboks on Saturday
@thenosyone987 could not resist shoving his beak in, answering back to the big boss: ‘Respect your attitude in defeat, but there were some questionable calls. I’ll highlight a few,’ before tagging in both South Africa and the Lions’ official accounts.
The attached one-minute twenty-one-second video showed Tom Curry hitting De Klerk late (which was punished at the time), Hamish Watson tip-tackling Willie le Roux, Duhan van der Merwe clearing a ruck perhaps a little too enthusiastically, the disparity of advantages played by referee Nic Berry, a nothing knee from Courtney Lawes, and Farrell held in a ruck.
Rassie – modestly – quoted-tweeted and said: ‘Thanks. This is rugby – sometimes calls go for you and other times they don’t.’
But by Monday morning he ditched the sickly sweet and went straight to bitter.
This time he had the video the right way up, and found another gripe – Cheslin Kolbe bundled into touch and then picked up quickly by Mako Vunipola. Was it to the letter of the law?
Erasmus went from sickly sweet to bitter on Monday as he hit out at Mako Vunipola
‘Cheslin is obviously played in the air and clearly not direct into touch!!More importantly for youngsters watching this clip!!!! Please never move or touch an injured player on the ground, its reckless and dangerous! Leave this to the (hospital emoji, meaning medics) @WorldRugby @Springboks @lionsofficial.’
Mother of God!
Mr Vunipola, you stand accused of being ‘reckless’ and ‘dangerous’ – what do you have to say for yourself, fella?
‘Remember trying to get the ball in but I saw that he’d gone down,’ his reply.
‘I guess it’s one of those things, in the heat of the moment, you react how you would normally. He seemed to be alright, he played on in the game, so it wasn’t that reckless, was it?
‘I guess if he was really hurt then it was a bit reckless, but I just felt like the collision wasn’t that bad. I saw that people were putting it up (on social media) and mentioning it.
‘We were behind at the time and wanted to get some tempo in the game so I wanted to get the ball off him.
‘If I did hurt him then I do apologise but as I mentioned, in the heat of the moment, you just react as you would naturally. It’s the first time a coach has said something like that.’
What do you make of this bent tweeter, Steve Tandy?
‘It’s a tough job and I know everyone moans around certain decisions,’ he said.
‘There’s always frustration, and we get it as coaches. But if you can keep that, because it is a tough job out there for the officials. If we can keep to the proper channels, I think that is probably the best way around that because it’s a tough job for the players, the coaches, and it’s definitely tough for the referees too.
‘People are saying Rassie is coming out and saying bits and pieces around the performances at the weekend but every team has got those moments. Every team can go through micro details and analyse it.
‘We do it ourselves but it is then going through the appropriate channels, raising the ones that are relevant and not making it about every small detail, just making sure every one of the major ones is correct.’
The Lions are not phased by Erasmus’ comments and feel the coach is simply frustrated
The Springboks don’t seem to bothered either and are fine with Erasmus’ errant fingers
In all this the South African Rugby Union are hardly too bothered. Is what Erasmus is doing any different to questioning a referee in a post-match press-conference, they privately muse?
While they deny all knowledge in public – ‘I’m completely unaware of any social media comments,’ said assistant Deon Davids – away from the cameras they are fine with Erasmus’ errant fingers, even if their lauded coach is chipping away at the mountains of respect he built-up at the World Cup, as the smiling assassin who united a nation, a country and built an incredible team with humility at its heart.
But like Jekyll and Hyde every Rassie Erasmus has his Jaco Johan – a random-name generated Afrikaner to do his dirty on social media.
Although what happens when Dr Jekyll becomes Mr Hyde and those yellow circles to highlight misdemeanours on video are repeated across both accounts?
This is definately, sorry definitely, one for Superintendent Hastings, DI Fleming and DS Arnott at AC-12.