How Rassie Erasmus threatened to cancel Lions tour

He is a relatively new captain, although he is an experienced player, and I know he will continue to work on his control. He understands it and is aware of it but what you don’t want to do is take away his passion and his desire. I was happy for him because he must have found it quite frustrating during the Six Nations campaign.

Damian Willemse’s last-gasp penalty loss also recalled how our Lions won last summer, when it was Morne Steyn who won the series for the second time in 12 years with a kick to Long range.

The incredibly difficult circumstances of the tour made it even more important for us to hold our ground and it would ultimately lead to the tour being marred by the actions of Rassie Eramus, the Springboks’ director of rugby.

The controversy started when their game against Georgia was called off due to an outbreak of Covid-19 on both sides. It was the last warm-up game for the Springboks before the Test series started and Rassie was desperate for us to play a second game against a ‘South Africa A’ team instead of the Stormers to give more playing time to its players.

But I felt strongly that it was important to stick to the schedule. What people may forget is that the opportunity to play against the Lions only comes around every 12 years and provincial team players look forward to it. We had made a commitment to play against the South African teams and we didn’t want to take a game away from them.

Rassie’s response on a Zoom call was to say that his players would walk out of camp and the tour would be halted. It was important for the Lions to keep their composure and I dismissed the threat.

Then Rassie popped the question in the press whether we were afraid to play them and that led to my joke about him being the Springboks’ waterboy. We had seen Rassie running around the pitch with a bottle of water but instead seemed to be giving instructions to his players during our loss to South Africa A.

Charles P. Patton