Lions skip Jones denies claim ref favors him over Kolisi

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — British and Irish Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones has defended the match officials in charge of the series with South Africa, saying they have “the hardest job in the game.”

His comments on Thursday came after more criticism by Rassie Erasmus, the South Africa director of rugby, who hours earlier released an unorthodox 62-minute video on social media in which he analysed the performance of Australian referee Nic Berry and his officials following the Springboks' 22-17 loss in the first test in Cape Town last Saturday.

The 2019 Rugby World Cup-winning coach has hogged the attention all week for his general displeasure of the decision-making by officials in the game.

Ahead of the second test at Cape Town Stadium this Saturday, captain Jones was asked whether he felt there was more scrutiny of referees in modern day rugby compared to when he started his career nearly 20 years ago.

“I don't think so,” Jones said. "The game's just changing. It does get difficult for players with the speed that the game is going … the ball in play.

"Sometimes the refs have the hardest job in the game being in the middle of all that. They obviously have assistants and they have a TMO (television match official), but more than ever decisions are being focussed on.

"But it's always been that way, they've always been scrutinised. I just think it's obviously in vogue at the minute and it's been highlighted by some this past week.”

Erasmus, who has irked the Lions by serving as a water boy also carrying messages to players during games, said he made the video on his own accord and was willing to walk away from the remainder of the series if he was out of line.

Along with 26 clips of alleged foul play by the Lions, Erasmus claimed Springboks captain Siya Kolisi did not receive the respect from Berry afforded to Lions skipper Jones.

"There was a vast difference between who he was taking serious and who he wasn't taking serious,” Erasmus said of Berry.

Jones, who could the Lions to a series victory on Saturday, saw it differently.

"In the heat of the moment, it didn't really feel like we had any advantage because a lot of the time I was standing there next to Siya when I was speaking to the ref, so it’s an outside perception I can’t really comment on,” he said.

Berry will be running the touchline this weekend as an assistant to New Zealand referee Ben O’Keeffe. Frenchman Mathieu Raynal will be the other assistant and South African Marius Jonker the TMO again.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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